Sport-related brain injuries get most of the publicity these days, but concussions don’t just happen to athletes. In fact, there are more concussions from falls, projectiles, and car accidents than there are from sports and recreation. Nobody knows your brain like you do, so staying informed will allow you to better look after yourself and your future.
Fast Facts About CONCUSSIONS
- Helmets do not protect the brain from the damaging forces of concussive injuries.
- A concussion can occur without direct trauma to the head. A simple whip-lash can cause a severe injury.
- Microstructural injury can occur even without observable symptoms, i.e. sub-concussive injury.
- History of concussion is associated with extended and complicated recovery.
Fast Facts about THE BRAIN
- The brain is not a rubbery tissue mass like we often see. Live brain tissue is actually more similar to the consistency of Jello.
- The brain is not a single structural mass, it is comprised of several independent tissue regions.
- The skull is not flat on the inside, it has many edges, ridges, and valleys.
- Brain tissue does not have pain receptors.
Believe it or not, the brain is not a rubbery mass like we often see. It is much more soft, in fact it’s oddly similar to the consistency of Jello. The reason it looks different outside the skull of a living human is because it is soaked in solution to solidify the tissue, otherwise scientists wouldn’t be able to pick it up. This makes sense because the brain is made mostly of water and fat.
During a concussion, brain tissue compresses and changes shape dramatically as it bounces around inside the skull. This causes a variety of physical forces on the brain. Imagine 100 billion brain cells shearing, stretching, and snapping back and forth. During such an event, neurons react helplessly and the injured person can momentarily lose their grip on reality, or even lose consciousness completely. Sure, the brain bounces off the skull but this is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg.
It’s time to rewrite the textbooks - here’s what really happens. Someone does not simply hit their head. At the moment of impact there is an entire cascade initiated throughout the brain, like electrical overstimulation, excitotoxicity, neuronal death, membrane dysfunction, mitochondrial impairment, cellular energy failure, blood flow restriction, protein accumulation, and nutritional deficit. The brain enters a chaotic state that results in the malfunction of entire regions of the brain. Some of these complications can last over a year following the injury, giving rise to many different symptoms. In this day and age, the public only knows of and refers to this devastating experience as...a concussion. For decades we have only been able to see the tip of the iceberg, but new science has shown us that there’s much more beneath the surface and it’s changing our fundamental understanding of the brain.
This is the list of true causes for concussion injury symptoms. Some of these effects can last more than a year. This brings new meaning to the words concussion recovery. With a brain that is literally dysfunctioning, it’s no wonder injured populations suffer from emotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues.
Concussion vs sub-concussive injury - the grey area. A sub-concussive injury is a mild traumatic brain injury that occurs from a jolt to the head or body that is below the threshold to cause any diagnosable symptoms. Remember, it doesn’t take much for the soft tissues of the brain to stretch, twist, and snap. While the impact or jolt may not cause an observable ”injury,” the brain still experiences potentially damaging forces. Studies have shown that even mild sub-concussive injuries like heading a soccer ball repeatedly can have long-term consequences. Although it likely takes multiple sub-concussive injuries to have significant effect. Researchers estimate a single athlete could experience anywhere from a hundred to over a thousand sub-concussive events in a single season. These small hits are particularly concerning for those with a past concussion history, and for those recovering from a previous injury.
These facts are un-ignorable, and the rise in awareness is changing sports forever. Helmets can’t stop the brain from bouncing around inside the skull, so how else can we protect players? Sports organizations have taken steps in the right direction by employing new rules, injury spotters, sideline protocols, and recovery guidelines. Some college football teams have even began implementing no-contact practices, which has proven extremely beneficial for decreasing concussions in their players. The bottom line is that protecting athletes is a top priority for very good reason, because it could affect their futures.
Science shows that some people are more susceptible to brain injury. We are all unique, and every brain is different. Things like history of injury, genetics, dietary deficiencies, and developmental differences all dictate how the brain responds to injury. These kinds of variables can increase the risk for injury, affect recovery time, or even impact the long term repercussions. For instance, a study done on brains with neurodegenerative disease showed that 80% of sufferers had a very specific genetic sequence now thought to greatly increase risk for acquiring such diseases. In the midst of such a vast existence it’s easy to view things from a one-size-fits-all perspective, but treating every brain based on its uniqueness could have a great impact on the future of humanity.
Have no fear, this is our opportunity to change the future. We believe that those who know better, do better. Our mission is to make the water crystal clear, so we can create better solutions to protect our brain. The answer is not to quit the sports you love, rather, it is a chance to take a new approach to protect your most valuable asset.
With this comes the empowering opportunity to protect and heal the brain. By targeting the primary processes linked to concussive injuries, we can make your brain healthy and strong so you can continue playing the sports you love!
To learn more about how to strengthen and heal your brain, check out our Brain Blog.