Concussions: The silent killers

Pat Escatel

What is a concussion? According to WebMD, a concussion is classified as “A traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head; an injury which jars or shakes the brain inside the skull.” Normally, soft tissue, blood, and spinal fluid cushion the blow a person receives to the head. However, when an individual gets their “bell rung” at a level which surpasses the threshold of this cushion, a concussion occurs.What are the symptoms of having this injury? The signscan greatly vary from mild to severe depending on the extent of the injury and the individual experiencing it. However, a general list was created by the WebMD website to provide a solid starting point of awareness: “Physical: nausea, vomiting, headache, blurry vision, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise, balance difficulties, extreme fatigue, sleeping more or less than usual, and having difficulty falling asleep. Cognitive: not thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, concentration difficulties, and struggling to remember new information. Emotional: irritable, sadness, nervousness, lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, and generally higher levels of emotions.” If an individual displays any of these symptoms after experiencing an injury to the head, it is likely they have a concussion. Who is prone to receiving this trauma? Literally every single person is susceptible to this type of injury; however, an individual’s lifestyle greatly influences the likelihood of it occurring. Typically, athletes take the spotlight when it comes to the publicity side of this brain trauma. More specifically, in our country, football players are being heavily focused on. New regulations are being set for all ages and leagues to promote the safety of the athletes. Another select group of athletes who are extremely vulnerable, if not the most vulnerable, are fighters.
Although there are occasions where the torso takes a beating, the primary target in a fighter’s mind is the head of the opponent. Multiple times in every matchup, a fighter gets their brain knocked around. The question is: how often does the athlete experience a concussion, do they always recognize and report their symptoms, and are the proper precautionary methods taken for the best interest of the individual’s long-term health? Those are questions which will likely never receive an accurate answer. Football and fighting are not the only two sports that an athlete can receive a concussion from; however, they are the two most infamous ones for the injury in our country.
As stated above, athletics are not the only way a person can be in the line of danger with this trauma: a concussion can be experienced virtually anytime, anywhere, by anyone. It can be as simple as a person walking out to their vehicle in the middle of a cold winter day, slipping on ice, and smacking their head on the ground. In addition, getting into a car accident can put one’s brain in the line of danger. Why should we be concerned? We, as the general public, should be extremely concerned about this for two reasons: because it can affect us, as individuals, or the people we care about, and also, concussions don’t always just “get better” on their own like many injuries are known to do. As stated before, there are multiple symptoms associated with this specific trauma to the brain. Many people are aware of the majority of the warning signs; however, not all of them realize that those difficulties can lead to long-term problems. According to Medical News Today, former NFL players have been studied in the recent years, and research is concluding that the multiple concussions they received from their athletic career actually have the potential to produce symptoms similar to those of patients who have Parkinson’s and also Alzheimer’s, not to mention being more prone to depression and anxiety. In addition, the attention, concentration, and memory problems can persist for weeks, months, or even years after the initial brain injury. These can be very challenging symptoms to cope with for students, especially of the college level.
One of the worst parts of the whole situation is that typically, people who are experiencing these symptoms don’t realize that there’s a bigger picture and deeper reason they are struggling. They may be confused as to why things are playing out the way that they are and possibly blame themselves for it.
In this modern day, more awareness is starting to be brought toward the seriousness of concussions. For example,Will Smith will be the star of a new movie called “Concussion”which will be in theaters December 25, 2015.

It will be the first film to truly focus on the severity of the issue and how it relates to football players, but as stated before, non-athletes can experience a concussion as well, so the message should be meaningful to all.
When should we seek help? As soon as we or someone we know receives any blow to the head, attempt to run through the list of symptoms stated earlier or preferably have someone else who did not get injured, perform a search for the signs, because if a person does have a concussion, they are in no condition to determine the severity of the injury.
If there is reason to believe the injured person is showing symptoms of having a concussion, then someone else who is capable of safely driving should take them to receive treatment from professional help immediately.
Where do we go for treatment if we believe we have this injury? This may seem like an obvious question; however, there may be more to it than an uninformed person may realize. Of course, initially, a person who receives a concussion should go to the hospital as they would with any other injury. The first thing that the medical professionals will do is order a CAT scan to be done.
Typically, this is when things can become complicated, because if the test comes back showing no signs of receiving a concussion, a doctor may write it off as simply “taking a good hit to the head” and tell the patient to “take it easy” for a few days before resuming normal activities.
However, it is still possible that the patient has a concussion, even if it wasn’t severe enough to show up on the CAT scan. Sure, what the medical field considers to be a “mild” concussion may not be as concerning as a “severe” concussion; however, it can be threatening if the individual has had multiple experiences with these “mild” concussions in the past.
Due to this possibility of being misled about the seriousness of a concussion, a patient may want to consider seeking other medical professionals in different fields if they are still feeling symptoms past the time frame their original doctor predicted for recovery.
How do we overcome the symptoms and prevent future concussions? This may be the toughest question of them all, because there is still so much about the human brain that scientists and medical professionals don’t fully understand.
The brain is such a complex system because of how unpredictable it can be when it comes to treatment for it. Two people who have what the medical field may consider to be the “same” disease or disorder, can receive the exact same treatment and react completely differently to it. That’s what makes defeating the side effects of concussions so difficult.
At this point, we don’t seem to possess the knowledge or understanding of concussions and the human brain to directly tackle the source of the problem. Instead, medical professionals typically feel that the best plan of action is to treat the symptoms that result from the concussion.
Unfortunately, as stated before, there can be multiple symptoms which lead to multiple issues, thus overwhelming the victim. It may require some tough adjustments in order to compensate for the side effects of the brain trauma, but it’s important that those adjustments be made for the sake of our health and future.
The most important lesson to take from this article is that concussions can be a very serious issue yet are often dealt with as if they are only minor. They can affect anyone and everyone; however, if someone chooses to engage in an activity that puts them in a greater line of danger regarding this injury, it’s important that they understand exactly what they are getting themselves into.
If this brain trauma is underestimated and treated like a temporary problem, then it will have the opportunity to become a permanent one. Dealing with the aftershock of concussions can be a very difficult battle to endure. However, it is a battle that should be fought and can be won.

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