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Do You Have A Concussion Or A Traumatic Brain Injury?

Most people know someone who has had a concussion. While recovery from a bump on the head or spine can happen faster than expected, there are instances where the trauma can lead to permanent complications. Read on to discover the difference between a concussion and a traumatic brain injury.

What is a Concussion?

It’s common to suffer a mild head injury that might affect how your brain functions. While the effects are mainly short-term, the changes in brain function can impact your balance, concentration, memory, and sleep. Sometimes, a concussion is accompanied by loss of consciousness resulting from a blow to your head, but it’s not common.

While some research calls it a traumatic brain injury, it’s important to note that it’s still considered a less severe type of brain injury. Additionally, concussions are a result of sports or recreational activities, work-related injuries, or car accidents.

Causes and Symptoms

Your brain is a complex organ made of soft tissue. It regulates various processes in your body, such as memory retention, emotions, motor skills, and vision. Moreover, when it connects with the spinal cord, it forms the central nervous system, which is the main centre for responding to sensory information.

Any damage to your central nervous system can result in severe nerve damage that impairs communication between your muscles and sensory organs. A concussion is caused by a violent blow to the head or spinal cord that leads to temporary loss of sensation. These types of injuries can lead to bleeding in the surrounding brain tissue that requires emergency medical intervention.

Symptoms of a concussion vary depending on the cause and age. They can be grouped as follows:

General Physical Symptoms

  • Drowsiness or fatigue.
  • Temporary loss of consciousness for an average of 30 seconds.
  • Blurry vision.
  • A headache or intense neck pain.
  • Confusion or dizziness.
  • Delayed responses and forgetfulness.

Symptoms in Children

It can be challenging to know the level of pain suffered by infants and toddlers following a concussion. It’s crucial to keep a close eye on and monitor:

  • Tiring easily.
  • Loss of balance or unsteady walking.
  • Crankiness, irritability, or excessive crying.
  • Dazed appearance.
  • Change in eating and sleeping patterns.

Symptoms in Athletes 

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Seizures.
  • Increased confusion and slurred speech.
  • Fluid or blood draining from the ear or nose.
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs.
  • Severe headaches.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since most blows to the head or spinal cord can lead to a concussion, it’s essential to seek immediate medical evaluation of your symptoms to monitor their seriousness. These are the tests that might be conducted to diagnose your concussion:

  • Cognitive Tests: A series of tests assesses your ability to recall information, concentration, and memory.
  • Imaging Tests: A CT scan is conducted to determine if the injury caused any internal bleeding or swelling that can lead to severe impairment, such as a skull fracture.
  • Neurological Exam: This is an evaluation of your sensory organs to assess your balance, coordination, hearing, and visual damage.

Most concussions don’t require hospitalisation. Getting enough rest is recommended for proper recovery. However, if your symptoms don’t get better after a few days, you should seek immediate medical attention to ensure you don’t have a severe brain injury.


Recovery and Potential Complications

In some cases, you might still experience issues such as severe headaches, dizziness, mood swings and lack of concentration for weeks to months after the expected recovery from your concussion. According to research, this could be delayed concussion symptoms or potential complications that require detailed diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can provide adequate measures to prevent further complications and to ease into your everyday activities without putting you at risk.

What is Traumatic (Terrible) Brain Injury (TBI)?

On the other hand, a violent blow to the head might result in a severe medical concern that can affect your brain in the long-term. A traumatic brain injury can result from a hard bump to your head or an object penetrating your skull. The effects can be fatal or lead to disability that affects your everyday life.


Types of TBIs

Mild TBI: These are commonly known as concussions and can cause significant short or long-term issues. You can recover and get back to everyday life, even though it might be a challenge depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Moderate and Severe TBI: These brain injuries can be through blunt force to the head due to an accident or fall, or they can be caused by an object like a bullet or knife penetrating your skull. The damage to your brain tissue is severe, leading to long-term health issues.


Complications of TBIs

The complications you might experience depend on the type of traumatic brain injury you experience. Additionally, failure to follow recovery guidelines provided by your doctor can increase the risk of second-impact syndrome that causes swelling and displacement of your brain tissue. Other common brain injury complications include:

  • Brain damage and disability.
  • A brain bleed or intracranial haemorrhage stroke.
  • Reduced life expectancy.
  • Movement disorders like shaking or uncontrollable spasms.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Seizures.

In summary, a concussion can be treated and managed without severe complications in the long-term. However, a blow to the head that leads to a traumatic brain injury can be fatal or cause severe health complications. Ensure you have an Affinity Health hospital plan to cover your diagnosis, tests, and hospitalisation if you have a concussion or traumatic brain injury after experiencing a violent blow to the head.

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