Concussion is a type of acquired brain injury. An acquired brain injury is any injury to the brain that occurs after birth, and causes can be traumatic (brain injury due to external trauma: hit to the head) or non-traumatic (stroke, brain surgery, brain infections).
The word concussion is derived from latin- to concuss means ‘shaking’. When used in the context of traumatic brain injury, this ‘shaking’ of the brain leads to a neurometabolic cascade (e.g. injury response at the brain cell level).
Is a concussion the same as mild traumatic brain injury?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, concussion should not be confused with the term ‘mild traumatic brain injury’. A concussion can occur at any level of severity of traumatic brain injury- thus a person with a mild, or moderate, or severe traumatic brain injury most likely will have suffered a concussion. The term ‘mild traumatic brain injury’ (or moderate or severe TBI) is a diagnostic term – it is based on certain criteria: Glasgow Coma Scale, length of loss of consciousness, and length of post traumatic amnesia.
A mild traumatic brain injury is diagnosed if loss of consciousness lies between 0 and 3 minutes. Thus, a mild traumatic brain injury can be diagnosed when the person did NOT suffer any loss of consciousness; but feelings of confusion or feeling dazed must be present and not result from substance intake.
What, then, is a concussion? What does the word mean?
Furthermore, the word concussion means ‘shaking’. Within the context of a brain injury, a concussion leads a what is called ‘neurometabolic’ cascade. In other words, the brain injury occurs at the cellular level. Only in more severe cases will there be evidence of actual structural changes changes that can be seen on brain imaging (e.g., contusions).
In clinical terms, concussion refers to a syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms which consistently occur together and are associated with a concussion. Concussion symptoms include physical, emotional, and thinking symptoms. All of these symptoms in combination with factors that are internal and external to the injured person create the challenges that people face when attempting to recover from concussion. Internal factors include things like age, educational level, pre injury health status, and resilience. External factors include things like familial support, society’s level of support (e.g., are rehabilitation programs available), and employer’s/ colleague’s support when returning to work in a gradual fashion.
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