Anatomy posters you saw in your high school lab can give you a false sense of security about your internal organs. In the images, the brain and other internal organs stay steady as if they are nailed into something.
In reality, your brain is more like it is soaked inside a vat. Inside the skull, your brain is suspended in a fluid known as the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It serves as a protective cushion for the brain against mechanical shocks. Over the CSF, the brain is further protected by three layers of tissue called the meninges.
What Is A Concussion? Symptoms & Diagnosis
A concussion is a condition where a sudden movement or a blow to the head or neck causes the brain to twist or bounce inside the head. Small shocks on the skull will be absorbed by the CSF but large impacts can cause the brain to collide with the inner walls of the skull. This sudden movement can damage the nerve fibers, resulting in chemical changes inside the brain.
A concussion can potentially interfere with the normal functioning of the brain giving rise to symptoms like confusion, memory loss, blurred vision, nausea, headaches, ringing in the ears, vomiting, fatigue, slurred speech, and even temporary loss of consciousness. If someone displays the above symptoms following a fall or accident, immediate medical care should be provided. Delayed medical intervention can worsen the condition.
Symptoms of concussion may not appear until after a few hours or days after the impact, which can delay the diagnosis. To avoid this, your doctor may perform a neurological examination, which consists of an evaluation of your vision, hearing, sensation, balance, coordination, reflexes, etc.
They may also do cognitive testing which includes assessing your cognitive abilities like memory, concentration, short-term recall, etc. If necessary, your health care provider may recommend imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI scan to find out if the impact has caused bleeding or inflammation inside the skull.
Prevention: No Place For Half-Measures
As boring as it may sound, prevention is better than cure. Preventive measures against concussions are pretty straightforward- in the situations where you move too fast, or objects move too fast around you, wear protective gear or brace yourself on something. When you drive, wear seat belts. When you play contact sports, wear helmets.
Never drive under the influence of alcohol. Always maintain a safe environment around you. Use non-slippery materials to pave your floor, including the bathroom floor. Check your vision regularly as low vision can increase your risk of falls and accidents.
Treatment: If Things Go Wrong
👉 Physical rest: Giving adequate rest to the body, following the impact, will help recover from a concussion. All physical activities that require rigorous movements should also be put to a halt. Work that involves manual labor and professional or recreational sports activities should also be stopped for the time being. Once the symptoms subside, a shift to normal life can be gradually made.
👉 Mental rest: Giving a break to cognitively demanding tasks can give the necessary time for the brain to recover from the damage caused to the nerves. You should avoid all activities that require thinking such as studying, reading, making decisions, etc. It is also important to avoid entertainment activities that require concentration, such as watching TV, texting, playing video games, etc. Good quality sleep is vital for fast recovery.
👉 Pain relief: Your doctor may prescribe you painkillers to cope with the headaches that may follow in the initial days after the trauma. Acetaminophen is the common analgesic prescribed for concussions. Other pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin should not be used, as they can increase the chances of bleeding.
It is important to note that if you feel a headache, nausea, or other similar symptoms after a fall or accident, it’s not necessarily always a concussion. Always get expert advice from your healthcare provider before starting your medication. Avoiding concussions is not something you would need to take additional care for.
If you keep your environment safe, follow some basic safety guidelines, and remain careful with high-speed movements, concussions can be avoided. In the unfortunate event that you get one, taking sufficient amounts of physical and mental rest, under professional guidance, is your way back.