How Concussions can Affect Your Life

Just One Concussion May be Enough to Cause Long-lasting Effects.

Jay Cardiello - About.com - How Concussions can Affect Your Life
Just a single concussion can cause permanent damage.

We’ve all heard about the detrimental effects of multiple concussions in NFL players.   However, suffering just a single concussion may be enough to cause long lasting health effects.

None of us are immune to possibly getting a concussion at any given time, whether it’s a result of our bad decisions or the bad decisions of others.  You could be playing a sport and take a nasty blow to the head, carrying groceries up the stairs and slip, driving on the road and have a car accident, shoveling snow and fall, or walking on a freshly waxed floor and slip.

  Your consciousness is on the line 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  It’s important to be careful no matter what you do and always be extremely aware of your surroundings.  One concussion can cause chronic changes in your thinking, sensations, communication, and emotions.  

Concussion is the most common form of brain injury, accounting for about 75% of all traumatic brain injuries.  It could result from a blow to the head, neck, or upper body, or a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head.  Upon impact, the brain shakes around and hits the hard walls of the skull, squishing and stretching the nerve cells in the process.  Stretching the nerve cells causes damage and leaves them temporarily or permanently nonfunctional.   

Most concussion victims become asymptomatic in a short time.  However, the Concussion Center at NYU Langone found that a significant minority of concussion patients (10-20%) develop chronic problems, including difficulties with mood, depression, anxiety, headaches, balance, attention, clarity of thought, and concentration.

 MRI’s show shrinkage of the brain in most concussion patients, particularly in the front and back sections.  These structural brain changes may be responsible for the long lasting motor and cognitive problems that can last for decades. 

Studies show that concussed athletes have less electrical activity in the parts of their brain responsible for attention, making them devote a greater part of their mental reserves to complete the same task as an uninjured athlete.

  Professional football players with a history of concussions are at a higher risk for early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and clinical depression.  A history of concussion can further accelerate the rate of cognitive deterioration earlier in life and to a greater degree. 

Some people don’t show symptoms of decline post-concussion.  This may be attributed to a reliance on their cognitive reserve, or toughness of mind against brain damage.  It’s possible for the brain to rewire itself to work more efficiently in light of damage.  Networks in the brain are flexible and can adapt to changes, but the extent of remapping varies between individuals.  

The length of recovery can be affected by age, health, and the how well the injury is cared for.  Plenty of rest allows necessary time for the brain to heal.  Demanding activities aggravate symptoms and slow recovery time. It’s important to avoid high risk activities, especially with active kids.   If a second concussion happens before the brain heals, the result could be brain swelling, permanent brain damage, or death, especially in kids and teens.

  Multiple concussions over time can create a snowball effect of problems, and repeated concussions in a short period of time can be disastrous or deadly. 

If you think you may have a concussion, see a doctor immediately.  It’s unsafe to resume activities until cleared by your doctor.  If your symptoms reappear or new symptoms develop, talk to your doctor again as it’s a sign you’re pushing yourself too hard.   Awareness is crucial as the road to recovery is different for everyone. 

Sources:

Abilities – Cognitive Abilities.  O*NET OnLine.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Brain Function Decline in Healthy Retired Athletes Who Sustained Their Last Sports Concussion in Early Adulthood.  Beaumont L, Ellemberg D, Lassonde M, Leclerc S, Messier J, Mongeon D, Theoret H.  Oxford Journals, 2009.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Can Just One Concussion Change the Brain.  NPR, 2013.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Cognitive Decline and Aging:  The role of Concussive and Subconcussive Impacts.  Broglio S, Eckner J, Kutcher J, Paulson H.  US National Library of Medicine, 2013.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Cognitive Reserve and Lifestyle.  Scarmeas N, Stern Y.  US National Library of Medicine, 2003.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Concussion.  Gorson K, Ropper A.  The New England Journal of Medicine, 2007.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Concussion: A Must Read for NFL Players.  CDC.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.   

Diseases and Conditions: Concussion Causes.  Mayo Clinic, 2014.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion.  CDC, 2015.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.

Patient Information: Concussion.  American Association of Neurological Surgeons.  Web.   17 Dec 2015.  

The Persistent Effects of Concussion on Neuroelectric Indices of Attention.  Broglio S, Hillman C, O’Connor P, Pontifex M.  U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States:  Fact Sheet.  CDC, 2015.  Web.  17 Dec 2015.  

Continue Reading