Concussion, aka ‘mild traumatic brain injury’, has been the topic of much research and discussion between health professionals in recent years. It is a particularly important topic amongst practitioners who treat sports people on the field and in the clinic setting. Although concussion in sport is a common occurrence, anyone with a head can get concussion… so that’s everyone then!
What is concussion?
Concussion is the word used to describe a minor head injury that is usually sustained by either:
- A blow to the head (e.g. hitting your head during a fall or being hit on the head by an object)
- Your head going through a sudden change in direction (e.g. during a car accident or a quick change in direction on the sports field)
During a trauma, the force sustained to the head causes the brain to move and hit the inside of the skull. This leads to inflammation and damage to the nerve tissue of the brain. This can affect the function of the brain in many ways and can lead to a wide variety of symptoms. The symptoms depend on what part of the brain and other body parts (i.e. the neck and other parts of the spine) are affected.
Who gets it?
Concussions are very common in sports people, especially those that partake in contact sports like boxing and football (any form), or a sport that leaves a person susceptible to a fall (i.e. cycling, skiing / snowboarding and horse-riding). Anyone who hits their head, or has their head thrown around during a sudden movement can become concussed. Car accidents are common causes in the general population where whiplash type injuries can lead to the brain being thrown back and forth inside the skull.
Signs and symptoms
Concussion can lead to a wide range of signs and symptoms, including any combination of:
- Loss of consciousness (30 minutes or less)
- Amnesia (i.e. an inability to recall what has happened / memory loss)
- Persistent low-grade headaches
- Dizziness, vertigo and loss of balance
- Brain fog
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbance (blurred vision or seeing stars)
- Light and noise sensitivity
- A blank / vacant look on the persons face
In the majority of cases, symptoms will come on quickly or at least within the first few hours after the injury occurs.
It is unlikely you will see an osteopath in the immediate aftermath of a head injury, unless you are a sportsperson who is under the care of an on-field osteo. After a head knock, if someone is suspected as having a concussion, it is normal procedure to see a medical professional (i.e. a GP or on-site osteo / physio) to be checked out. Severe impacts may require hospitalisation. In mild cases, once the treating practitioner is happy that symptoms are stable, you will usually be sent home to rest and recover. Many people feel okay at this point and are keen to return to playing, but this should be avoided because the consequences of a second head injury can be much more severe. The best and only thing you should do at this point is follow your doctor’s orders!
A mild concussion usually recovers within two weeks, but symptoms can persist for some people for weeks or months following a head injury. If this occurs, this person is said to be experiencing post-concussion syndrome. These symptoms should resolve with time, but again, they can persist in some people.
Once you are in that stable stage of a concussion, it is fine to seek out the help of your friendly neighbourhood osteo. Osteopathic treatment has been shown to be an effective and safe treatment option for people suffering from stable concussive symptoms. A blow to the head can start off a chain reaction around the body and may have immediate effect on the function of the spine and shoulders. We can assess and treat these dysfunctions to get you through your concussion safely and in as little pain as possible.