It’s not “just” a concussion – it’s a brain injury. It’s also the most common type of brain injury sustained in sports with 1.6-3.8 million Americans experiencing a concussion from a sports and recreation-related incident. Multiple concussions can have cumulative and long lasting life changes, which makes March’s Brain Injury Awareness Month vital.
“Even if you don’t hit your head, you could have sustained a concussion. It happens if you’ve been indirectly hit somewhere on the body – the force can be transmitted to the head, causing a concussion,” said neurosurgeon, David M. McKalip, M.D. Concussions do not appear in neuroimaging studies like a MRI or CAT scan and most do not involve loss of consciousness. “There are 1.4 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) each year in the U.S. and 75 percent of those are typically concussions so it’s important to know the risks, prevention measures and treatments when they occur,” said Dr. McKalip.
The leading causes to youth concussions (ages 5-18 years) are bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities and soccer. Not diagnosing or managing a concussion could result in serious long-term consequences, or risk of coma or death. “In most cases, signs and symptoms may be noticeable right away. In other cases, it could take days or weeks before any sign is present so if someone experiences a blow to the head or body, it’s best to see a healthcare provider sooner rather than later just in case,” says Dr. McKalip.
The extent of the problem
U.S. emergency departments treat nearly 135,000 sports and recreation-related TBIs – including concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities on a daily basis as a result of a TBI. “A brain injury can cause a variety of functional changes in thinking, emotions, behavior, language, sensation or learning,” says Dr. McKalip. “It can also cause epilepsy or increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or other brain disorders that become more common as one ages.”
Here are some signs that you may be experiencing a concussion or TBI:
Headache that won’t go away, Memory issues, Concentration issues or being easily confused, Slower thinking, speaking, acting or reading, Tired, lack of energy or motivation, Light-headed, dizzy, lack of balance, Nausea, Sensitivity to light or sound and Ringing in the ears or loss of sense of smell or taste.
What can I do to prevent a brain injury?
Use your safety belts in cars or any moving vehicle (including buckling children in safety seats). Use helmets in all recreation or necessary sporting activities (i.e. bicycling, riding motorcycles, contact sports like football or boxing, skateboarding, baseball/softball, horse-back riding or water-skiing). Use shock-absorbing material (mulch or sand) on playgrounds. Be cautious of accidents around the home such as falls (use step stools, handrails, gates for children, avoid tripping hazards – loose cords or rugs, slippery tubs/showers – use slip mats). Maintain an exercise routine to improve strength and balance. Maintain vision by visiting optometrists for screenings. Store away firearms (and bullets). Lastly, avoid driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
TAKE CONCUSSIONS SERIOUSLY
“Concussions and TBIs can sound minor enough in the beginning but there is potential for life-altering affects, so it’s something that needs to be taken seriously and the best way to start is through education and awareness this month.”
About Dr. McKalip:
David McKalip, M.D. is a Board-Certified Neurological Surgeon of the brain and spine. He still serves as the immediate past-president of the Florida Neurosurgical Society and Founder of the Pinellas Medical Foundation. For more information about Dr. McKalip, visit www.McKalip.md