A concussion is a type of brain injury usually caused by a blow to the head, and is accompanied by confusion, loss of memory, and sometimes loss of consciousness. It is also possible to suffer a concussion without being completely “knocked out.”
Concussions occur when the head hits or is hit by an object, or when the brain is pushed against the skull with a strong force. Such violent jarring causes at least a temporary loss in brain function. The injured person may become disoriented (confused) and may briefly lose consciousness.
Usually, a concussion usually gets better without any long-term effect. On rare occasions, it is followed by a more serious injury called second-impact syndrome. Second-impact syndrome occurs when the head receives a second blow before the original concussion totally healed. Brain swelling may increase, resulting in a fatal condition.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 300,000 people experience mild to moderate concussions each year as a result of sports injuries. Most of these people are men between the ages of 16 and 25.
Motor vehicle accidents are another major cause of concussions. In these instances, there is not usually a blow to the head; rather, the concussion occurs with the vehicle starts or stops suddenly, causing the brain to push against the skull.
The brain is actually surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, and the fluid cushions the brain, protecting it from our everyday activities and movements. However, the fluid may not be able to absorb the force of being hit in the head with a soccer ball, or the head-snapping motion that occurs when your car is hit from behind by another. In these situations the brain may slide forcefully against the inner wall of the skull. More serious injuries to the brain include bruising and swelling of the brain (contusion), a broken skull bone (skull fracture), and blood that collects in or around the brain (hematoma).
Symptoms of concussion include:
- Disorientation (confusion) as to time, date, or place
- Vacant stare or confused expression
- Speech that is difficult to understand
- Difficulty reading, writing, calculating
- Lack of coordination or weakness
- Amnesia (loss of memory) about events just preceding the blow
- Nausea or vomiting
- Double vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Poor judgment (firings, arrests, fights)
- Change in relationships with others
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
These symptoms may last from several minutes to several hours. More severe or longer-lasting symptoms may indicate more severe brain injury. If a person loses consciousness, it will be for several minutes at the most. If unconsciousness last for a longer period, a more serious form of brain injury may have occurred.
Repeated concussions over many months or years can eventually cause more serious brain injury. For example, boxers can develop a form of permanent brain damage called “punch drunk” syndrome or dementia pugilistica (pronounced dih-MEN-sha pyoo-juh-LIS-tuh-kuh). Perhaps the best known example is the great boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali eventually developed Parkinson’s disease), believed to be caused by head injuries sustained while he was active as a boxer.
Young children are likely to suffer concussions from falls or bumps on the playground or at home. Child abuse is another common cause of concussion. Other significant causes of concussions include:
- Contact sports (especially football, hockey and boxing)
- Injuries due to bicycling, horseback riding, skiing and soccer
There’s no such thing as a minor concussion that you simply “shake off.” Although not usually life-threatening, concussions can have serious effects. Most people with mild injuries recover fully, but the healing process takes time.
Anyone who receives a concussion must be watched very carefully after the accident. It is important to notice how long unconsciousness lasts and how serious the symptoms seem to be. These signs are indications of how serious the brain injury was, and are important in deciding how to treat the patient.
A medical professional can decide how serious a concussion is with some simple tests. He or she may examine the pupils of the patient’s eyes, test the patient’s coordination and sense of feeling, and observe his or her memory, orientation, and concentration. Patients with mild concussions do not require hospitalization or further tests. Those with more serious injuries may need some form of brain test, such as a computer-aided tomographic (CAT) scan.
There are usually no long-term effects of concussion. However, symptoms of post-concussion syndrome may last for weeks or months. The risk of a second concussion in contact sports is even higher than the risk for a first concussion. For that reason, a person who has received a concussion needs to avoid contact sports until the first concussion has entirely cleared up.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury to the head, the concussion injury lawyers at Oshman & Mirisola are able to evaluate that injury and successfully pursue claims on behalf of the injured plaintiff.
It is always important to consult with an attorney regarding brain injury cases. There are many times when a victim may not be aware of their legal rights, but Oshman & Mirisola attorneys will investigate the facts and determine whether or not you have a right to compensation, and in most cases you will have that right. Additionally, depending on the extent of your injury, you may have a right to public or private benefits such as Social Security disability, Medicare, or private disability insurance payments.
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