A topic like concussions is a hard one to understand; it’s multifaceted because the brain is an extremely complex organ. I like to think of the brain as the body’s equivalent of the deep ocean – there’s just so much left to explore, and research on the brain is so new.
Needless to say, when I began work on “Bell Ringer: The Invisible Brain Injury,” I was confronted with my fair share of confusion. I spent a good amount of time calling experts and getting answers to my questions.
Now, two years later, many of the people I come across have the same questions I once had. While I’m no authority on the subject, I would like to share some of the answers – some basic, some more involved – that I received while researching concussions.
Do you have to be knocked out to have a concussion?
A concussion can happen even when loss of consciousness doesn’t occur. Recent statistics show that loss of consciousness occurs in less than 10 percent of concussions. The more common symptoms include headaches, confusion, dizziness, sensitivity to light, balance problems, amnesia and even depression.
Do helmets with a higher rating prevent concussions?
Can you sustain a concussion without being hit on the head?
Why are there so many different symptoms for concussions?
Every person reacts to concussions differently, because a concussion causes chemical and metabolic changes to your brain. Considering the brain is the control center of the body, symptoms can range from physical problems like nausea to emotional problems like sadness. Not only that, but symptoms can evolve over time, as your brain returns to its normal chemical and metabolic state. Returning to normal could take days, weeks, or months, depending on the person.
Are brain scans a good way to detect concussions?
Not necessarily, but let me explain. A concussion is a functional injury, not a structural injury. The brain’s shape, for instance, does not look different after a concussion. Because of this, a CT scan, which shows the shape and structure of the brain itself, will not be able to detect a concussion (although they can detect brain bleeding or swelling). A MRI has the ability to show a functional deficit within the brain, but in most cases you would need to do a baseline MRI prior to the injury in order to know for sure the deficit exists (if a MRI is done before the injury, you could compare how the player’s brain functioned before the injury and after, and spot any differences). Considering MRIs are so costly, this isn’t an ideal way to detect concussions.