What is a concussion?

Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) represent 75% of all brain related injuries. The term “concussion”
has mainly been adopted by the sport medicine community while the term “mild TBI” is usually used to describe non-sports related injuries. In fact, these two terms are generally used interchangeably. This is not surprising considering that the impacts causing concussions are of similar intensity of those caused by most motor vehicle collisions.

A concussion occurs when an external force produces a rapid movement of the head which in turn causes the brain to hit the side of the skull. This violent shaking can be caused by a direct hit to the head, face or neck area, but can also be caused by a hit to any other part of the body that results in an impulse force which gets transferred to the head.

What happens in the brain after a concussion?

Studies using state of the art imaging techniques show that concussions lead to a neurometabolic storm and energy crisis. This prevents the brain from functioning properly.

The Impact of a Concussion on Brain Tissue:

Immediate consequences of a concussion on brain tissue include:

  • Micro-tears in fibers connecting different parts of the brain
  • Chemical imbalances (e.g. significant entry of calcium ions inside the cells)
  • Hyperexcited neurons
  • Decrease in brain oxygenation
  • Decrease in glucose (fuel for the brain)
  • Metabolic imbalance
  • Cerebral tissue inflammation

The days following the injury play a crucial role in determining the recovery of the brain. The brain will need to find its balance as well as sort everything out. In order to accomplish this, it will need to use a significant amount of oxygen and glucose. This is why complete physical and cognitive rest is imperative during the days following a concussion. An untimely return to regular activities such as work, education and/or sports can significantly hinder the recovery process of the brain, causing it to last longer as well as possibly increasing the risk of sustaining another traumatic brain injury.

Learn more about concussions: