What is a concussion?

Concussions are a big news subject these days, as the long-term effects of blows to the head for athletes and troops in war zones have come increasingly to light. But readers who have never experienced one may not know exactly what experts are talking about when they refer to concussions. What is a concussion and how does it affect the human brain?

Simply put, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury, usually caused by a blow to the head, that affects brain function. The blow causes the brain the slide around and bump into the skull’s inner walls. These blows can affect the functioning of the brain, which has the consistency of gelatin, and possibly trigger bleeding on the brain. Even the brain’s chemical levels are altered.

Common signs of a concussion in an adult include:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure
  • Confusion or fogginess
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Amnesia about the trauma
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can linger for days or weeks. Long-term, possible complications include postconcussion syndrome, which causes headaches, dizziness and cognitive problems. Other victims develop epilepsy. Over time, multiple brain injuries can develop permanent symptoms that limit their ability to function on their own.

Most concussions are relatively mild, and the victim fully recovers. But many times, the effects last a long time, forcing the victim to spend a lot of money on medical bills, and possibly requiring him or her to miss work for a while.

Some victims of brain injury never recover. They should not have to pay the resulting costs themselves.