A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are common and can affect people of all ages. Most concussions are mild and the effects usually disappear within a few days, with no lasting consequences. A severe concussion can cause impaired consciousness for several hours or more and have lasting effects.
About 3 to 18 in every 100 children and adolescents will suffer a concussion. Estimates of the incidence and prevalence of concussions are not accurate because many people do not seek medical attention for their condition.
This article will discuss the facts about concussions and who is most at risk.
Overview of concussions
A concussion is a temporary change in brain function due to a head injury. It often causes a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or an alteration of the memory of the event.
Symptoms can vary and may include:
- Sleeping troubles
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Personality changes
- Generalized aches and pains
- Decreased appetite
Some people develop a condition called post-concussion syndrome, which is a prolonged persistence of symptoms after a concussion.
Repeated concussions can cause a serious neurological condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can cause persistent pain, changes in mood and personality, and difficulty functioning in daily life.
How common are concussions?
National surveys estimate that approximately 3 to 18 in every 100 children or adolescents in the general population will have a concussion at some point in their childhood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 223,135 hospitalizations related to traumatic brain injury in 2019 out of a US population of approximately 330 million people.
Certain safety measures can help reduce the incidence of concussions and concussion-related problems. These include wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet during certain sports, and seeking medical attention after a head injury.
Concussion by ethnicity
Concussions can affect anyone of any ethnicity. Accurate and timely diagnosis and care can have a beneficial impact on recovery.
There is some evidence that there are population disparities in recognition of concussions, which can lead to false positives (people being identified as having a concussion when they do not) or delays in appropriate care for concussions.
Concussion by age and sex
According to the CDC, people ages 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths. This age group accounts for approximately 32% of TBI-related hospitalizations and 28% of TBI-related deaths.
The effects of a concussion last longer and are more severe for people who have a history of brain damage, such as a history of stroke (a blockage of blood flow or bleeding in the brain) or a concussion anterior brain. Concussions are more common with age.
National surveys vary in their estimate of the frequency of concussions in children and adolescents:
- A survey of people between the ages of 3 and 17 reports that about 3 to 7 in every 100 children have suffered a concussion.
- Another survey of people between the ages of 13 and 17 reports that about 6 to 18 in every 100 teenagers have suffered a concussion.
Adult males are more likely to be seen for medical attention for a concussion. Adult women are more likely to report concussion symptoms.
Causes of concussions and risk factors
A head injury is the cause of a concussion. A TBI can cause a concussion with or without an identifiable structural injury. Concussion is thought to occur due to changes in brain chemical activity resulting from trauma. These changes can affect different regions of the brain.
Risk factors for concussion include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports-related head trauma
- Injuries caused by violence
Some of these risk factors lead to repeated concussions. For example, a fall that results in a concussion can cause dizziness for months or longer, increasing the risk of another fall. Certain sports can cause frequent concussions, each of which increases the risk of extensive and lasting brain damage.
What are the death rates for concussions?
It is difficult to estimate the risk of dying from a concussion because there are other factors involved in survival after a TBI. for example, many people who have a severe concussion also have other brain injuries or other problems such as blood loss, broken bones, and organ damage that can reduce the chances of survival.
The post-concussive symptoms or effects of CTE can lead to death from problems indirectly caused by the head trauma, such as drug overdose.
Based on CDC data, there were 64,362 deaths related to traumatic brain injury in the United States in 2020.
Screening and early detection
Many tests can detect a concussion. These tests can measure skills such as reaction time. Scores can be compared to standardized scores.
Some sports programs require basic concussion testing before the start of the season. This is a test a player takes when they are considered to be at their best, which is scored as their base score. These types of tests measure whether a player has had a change in their own score after a concussion.
Some of the commonly used concussion tests include:
- King-Devick concussion test
- Standardized Concussion Assessment (SAC)
- Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS)
- Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT)
- Buffalo Concussion Physical Examination (BCPE)
A concussion is a change in brain function due to head trauma. Concussions can result in a brief loss of consciousness or diminished memory of the event, and they can range from mild to severe. Most people recover from a concussion with no lasting damage.
Concussions are more common with age, and the most common population is people over the age of 75. Recurrent concussions or underlying brain conditions pose a risk of persistent or severe neurological and psychological changes after a concussion.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a concussion fatal?
Usually, a concussion is not life-threatening, but sometimes the effects of a concussion can lead to mental or physical repercussions. In severe cases, the effects of a concussion can be life-threatening.
Should I see a doctor for a concussion?
Yes, you should see a doctor if there is any risk that you have had a concussion. Head trauma can cause a fractured skull, hematoma (accumulation of blood in the brain), or other injuries that require medical or surgical intervention.
After a concussion, you may have certain boundaries that you need to follow in order to heal.