The following short list encompasses the answers I get when I ask adults and kids "What do you think a concussion is?"
- "It's when the brain smacks into the inside of the skull and gets bounced around and bruised."
- "When you get knocked out."
- "It's when you get hit in the head."
For definition purposes, a concussion occurs when a person sustains a significant impact, and then, essentially, feels funny. Bonk/crunch ---> feel funny. The impact can involve the head, or it can merely be a strong enough jolt to cause a snapping motion of the neck - back, forward, to the side, whatever. The "feeling funny" refers to what doctors would call a change in mental status, and the following is a partial list of those symptoms:
- loss of consciousness
- blurry vision
- feeling foggy
- memory loss
- being off-balance
- speech issues
- Kid boarded during a hockey game
- Gymnast fell off uneven bars and landed on her backside but had her neck "bounce" hard
- Any number of football collisions
- Lacrosse cross-checking injury
- Child shoved hard by another child
- Kickball to the face
- Teen in a rush, hit side of head against door frame of car
- Home plate collision
- Fastball to the (helmeted) head
- Car accident with whiplash only.
Furthermore, some people have sleep problems, chronic headaches, and fatigue, chronic or not. Some people even appear to suffer from ADHD/ADD-like or depression. Google enough, and you'll see that former athletes have committed suicide after suffering from these issues. Kids especially seem to be vulnerable to something called "second impact syndrome," which can result in either severe neurological damage or death when a person who already had a concussion suffers a similar injury before the original injury resolves.
What can you do? Read up on it; here are some good websites:
- http://www.momsteam.com/ (good overall sports parenting website, very accessible)
If you're really motivated, move for your town or school system to institute concussion education programs and make sure that your coaches, from youth sports all the way to high school sports, are aware of what traumatic brain injuries are. Push for your school to have certified athletic trainers at every game. Hopefully, with enough awareness, I won't hear the following after I advise parents to pull their kids from sports until they're feeling better...
"Yeah, doc, I hear you...you're trying to cover your butt, and I get that, but I had my bell rung a few times when I played football, and I'm just fine..."