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What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can occur when the head is exposed to sudden movement, a jolt or a blow - e.g., in a car crash or a fall to the ground. As illustrated in the video below, these types of head traumas can push the brain into the skull causing injury to the organic brain matter.

The brain is essentially a network of nerve cells called neurons (see image below). Cognition occurs as neurons send and receive billions of electrochemical signals to one another in various, complex patterns. Neurons receive signals through the dentrites and transmit signals through the axons. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), a trauma to the head can cause microscopic changes in the axons, disrupting these patterns and causing harm.

A concussion is usually categorized as a type of mild TBI (mTBI), as opposed to moderate or severe. The terms mild, moderate, and severeare used to differentiate between different types of traumatic brain injuries. Despite the misleading terminology, a mild TBI is an injury to the brain that can lead to significant symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of concussion or mTBI include:

Thinking/Remembering Physical Emotional/Mood Sleep
Difficulty thinking clearly HeadacheFuzzy or blurry vision Irritability Sleeping more than usual
Feeling slowed down Nausea or vomiting (early on)Dizziness Sadness Sleeping less than usual
Difficulty concentrating Sensitivity to noise or lightBalance problems More emotional Trouble falling asleep
Difficulty remembering new information Feeling tired, having no energy Nervousness or anxiety

[If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms following a head trauma, it is important that you seek medical attention right away.]

According to the American Society of Neuroradiology (ASNR), microscopic injury to the brain cells from a traumatic event can go undetected by even the most advanced neuroradiological imaging technology available today. Computed axial tomography (CT or CAT scans) are used to detect brain bleeding (hematomas) and swelling (edema). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) are used to detect minute bleeding (microhemorrhage), small areas of bruising (contusion) or scarring (gliosis). Abnormal CT scan or MRI results indicate immediate neurological treatment. However, because of the brain's sensitivity to even microscopic changes, normal CT scan and MRI results do not rule out a concussion. It is important to get plenty of physical and mental rest following any head trauma, even with normal CT scan and MRI results!

Concussion symptoms usually appear within the first 7-10 days following the traumatic event. When this occurs, the person who suffered the head trauma has post-concussion syndrome. This condition usually subsides within 1-3 months, but it can last up to a year or more in some cases.

When post-concussion syndrome persists beyond a few months, neuropsychological testing is recommended to assess cognitive functioning (incl. memory, attention and reasoning) as well as psychological components (incl. personality and mood). The goal of the neuropsychological testing is to understand the effects of both the physical injury to the organic brain matter as well as the emotional injury from the traumatic and stressful event. A behavioral neurologist or neuropsychiatrist can meet with the patient and review the neuropsychological test results to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Many times a factor in persistent post-concussion syndrome is underlying depression or anxiety caused by the traumatic and stressful event. For example, when neuropsychological testing shows normal cognitive functioning and a depressed or anxious mood, the neuropsychiatric diagnosis may be depressive pseudo-dementia. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

The lawyers at Effres & Associates know how to effectively litigate and prove TBI cases. If you or a loved one received a head trauma due to someone else's negligence, contact our office today for a free consultation.

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