What is a Concussion?

Concussion Definition

A central problem to the study of concussions is that an exact definition had long remained elusive (Laker, 2011). In the past, concussions have been called concussion, “ding”,  “getting your bell rung“, mild traumatic brain injury (mild TBI), and/or TBI,  interchangeably (Hunt, 2013). Recently, researchers and clinicians at the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport provided an updated consensus statement which produced a standardized definition of concussion and guidelines for the prevention, assessment and management of sport-related concussions (Alder, 2011; McCrory et al., 2013). Their definition of a concussion is as follows:

A concussion is a brain injury and is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces. Several common features that incorporate clinical, pathologic, and biomechanical injury constructs that may be utilized in defining the nature of a concussive head injury include:

  1. Concussion may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body with an ‘‘impulsive’’ force transmitted to the head.
  2. Concussion typically results in the rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurologic function that resolves spontaneously. However in some cases, symptoms and signs may evolve over a number of minutes to hours.
  3. Concussion may result in neuropathological changes, but the acute clinical symptoms largely reflect a functional disturbance rather than a structural injury and, as such, no abnormality is seen on standard structural neuroimaging studies.
  4. Concussion results in a graded set of clinical symptoms that may or may not involve loss of consciousness. Resolution of the clinical and cognitive symptoms typically follows a sequential course. However, it is important to note that in some cases symptoms may be prolonged (McCrory et al., 2013).

Key Points

1. You do not have to be hit in the head for a concussion to occur

2. A concussion usually involves a temporary disruption in brain function that resolves on its own (if you take care of your injury)

3. Although you may be experiencing symptoms, neuroimaging such as CT or MRI usually will not reveal your injury

4. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be “knocked out” to sustain a concussion

Click on the link below to watch a video from Parachute Canada:

Here you can watch Neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Tator, explain what a concussion is and how it occurs.  This video clip was taken from ThinkFirst Canada’s “Smart Hockey Video.”

For more information about concussion management, visit http://www.parachutecanada.org/thinkfirstcanada

Adler, R. H. (2011). Youth sports and concussions: preventing preventable brain injuries. One client, one cause, and a new law. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am, 22(4), 721-728, ix. doi: 10.1016/j.pmr.2011.08.010
Hunt TN. (2013). Evaluation of Sports Concussion: A Handbook for Students and Clinicians. NJ, USA: SLACK incorporated. 3-4.
Laker, S. R. (2011). Epidemiology of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. PM R, 3(10 Suppl 2), S354-358. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.07.017
McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W., Aubry, M., Cantu, B., Dvorak, J., Echemendia, R., et al. (2013). Consensus statement on Concussion in Sport – The 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Phys Ther Sport, 14(2), e1-e13. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2013.03.002

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s