A Simple Explanation of Concussions

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Interviewer: Doctor, a lot of talk about concussions lately. Can you
explain just exactly what that is, what happens to the brain when someone
has a concussion?

Doctor: By definition a concussion is a transient or temporary interference
with neurological function. So it's a very broad definition associated with
mechanical forces to the brain. So it can be from any traumatic injury.
There's a temporary shutdown in the electrical activity of the brain. In
that case there may, by unconsciousness, but that only happens in about 1
out of 10 cases. Nine out of 10 concussions are not associated with loss of
consciousness, which is something that's misunderstood by the public. More
so in the past, not now. We're much more aware that a transient
disturbance, a ding, is associated with a concussion. The problem is the
post-concussion syndrome that occurs in a 10 to 15% of kids in sports. So
that in the great majority of cases this clears the concussion and the
symptoms - the headache, the nausea, the blurred vision, which are common
symptoms - clears within 1 to 7 days. In a small subset, however, 5, 10,
15%, there may be lingering symptoms, which are associated with impaired
memory, difficulty learning, difficulty focusing and concentrating, sleep
disturbances, headaches, nausea, maybe some blurred vision, vestibular
problems, balance problems. These are the ones that seemingly, at times
from a seemingly mild blow to the head - a lacrosse stick, a soccer ball -
can result in relatively long term symptoms, even being pulled out of
school not because they can't focus or concentrate enough.

Concussions are in the news more and more these days. But what is actually happening when someone suffers a concussion? Dr. Joseph Maroon is a concussion specialist and chief neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He explains what a concussion is and what some of the common symptoms and affects are.

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