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Facts of Traumatic Brain Injury

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are something we hear about too frequently. They are primarily connected to sports, particularly football. The National Football League has cracked down on hits to the head to help protect the players from the long term effects of brain injuries.

These Injuries are classified as mild if there is a loss of consciousness, confusion or disorientation that lasts less than thirty minutes. Even though an MRI may be normal, the injured person often has headaches, memory problems, difficulty thinking, mood swings, attention deficit and frustration. These symptoms certainly do not seem mild to the injured party.

It is not just the pros that need to be concerned about brain injuries as there are more injuries in college and high school athletes. You can bump your head playing any sport or fall off a bike and still suffer the consequences of the brain trauma.

The National Conference on Concussion in Sports divides concussion into simple and complex types. Simple concussions typically resolve and the patient is functional within 7-10 days. A complex concussion affects the thought processes and more are common in patients with repeated concussions. We have also seen this problem in the boxing profession and extreme sports also.

Education for Athletes and Coaches

There is mandatory education required for school athletes and coaches. The reporting of injuries has improved as people become more knowledgeable about the symptoms of a concussion.

Contrary to popular belief, a concussion is not a bruise to the brain caused by hitting a hard surface. Swelling and bleeding are not typically seen on medical scans. The injury actually occurs when the head is either accelerated rapidly, then suddenly stopped, or if it is spun rapidly.

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Concussion Signs and Symptoms

The violent shaking of the brain causes the brain cells to begin firing all its neurotransmitters at once in an unhealthy cascade, which floods the brain with chemicals. It will deaden certain receptors linked to learning and memory.

Sometimes the symptoms of a brain concussion are subtle and may not be readily apparent. The symptoms can last for an extended period of time, days, weeks or even longer.

The two most common symptoms are confusion and amnesia, which may not be preceded by a period of unconsciousness. It almost always causes a loss of memory of the trauma that caused the concussion.

Common symptoms include:

  • Mild Dizziness to starry vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue

Symptoms that may occur at a later time frame include:

  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Concussion Medical Advice:

The majority of concussions repair on their own, but some blows to the head can cause more serious injuries. Of course, it is important to seek medical advice if you have the following symptoms:

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  • Prolonged headache or dizziness
  • Vision or eye disturbances, including pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Impaired balance
  • Prolonged memory loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of smell or taste

Head Injury Symptoms & Advice

Concussions in Children

Parents are becoming more concerned about their children being injured. They purchase helmets, knee and elbow pads. One study showed that less than 20 percent of parents are not allowing their children to play football.

Most falls with young children are scalp injuries, but they may bleed profusely. However, head concussions for children are serious as they occur when their brains are more delicate. The other problem is children are often too young to communicate their symptoms.

The symptoms to look for in children are:

  • Listlessness, tiring more easily
  • Irritability, crankiness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Headache
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys
  • Loss of balance, unsteady gait when walking

More serious signs that a child needs medical attention include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Headache that gets worse over time
  • Changes in your child’s behavior, including irritability or difficulty walking
  • Changes in your child’s physical coordination, including stumbling or clumsiness
  • May develop symptoms similar to Parkinson's Disease
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Child Abuse Head Injuries

Abusive head trauma in babies is also caused by someone shaking a baby vigorously out of anger, blows to the head, dropping or throwing the child, and it is the leading cause of death in the US in child abuse cases. They are usually infants 3-8 months, although it is seen in children up to 4 years old.

When someone forcibly shakes a baby, the child’s head rotates about the neck uncontrollably because the infant’s neck muscles are not well developed. The violent movement pitches the brain back and forth against the skull, sometimes rupturing blood vessels and nerves throughout the brain and tearing the brain tissue. It is fine to bounce a baby up and down on your knee, but shaking of any kind should be avoided.

Seeking Treatment for Head Trauma

With an adult or child the doctor will do a physical and ask details of your symptoms and what trauma caused the head injury. The physician will complete a neurological exam. A cat scan (CT) is usually ordered as a precaution. You may be hospitalized overnight for observation.

Potential Breakthrough in Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Prevention Tips

  1. Wear a helmet for recreational activities.
  2. Always buckle your seat belt.
  3. Make you home as fall proof as possible. Keep your home well lit, free of floor clutter, as falls around the house are the leading cause of head injuries for children and adults.
  4. Use caution around swimming areas. Don’t dive into water less than 9’ deep.
  5. Wear sensible shoes. If you are older it is better to wear thinner hard-soled shoes.

In Summary

It is important in sports that sportsmanlike conduct be adhered to so trauma injuries are prevented. If you suspect that what seemed like a minor fall now has some new symptoms, be sure to get medical treatment as soon as possible.

Trauma to the head causing a concussion can be serious and should be prevented at all times.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Pamela Oglesby

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