Is a concussion a brain injury?

Explaining “concussion”

A concussion is a type of acquired brain injury. An acquired brain injury is any injury to the brain that occurs after birth. An acquired brain injury can result from physical trauma (brain injury due to external trauma: hit to the head) or it arises from an internal cause (stroke, brain surgery, brain infections).

Is a concussion the same as mild traumatic brain injury?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) because a concussion results from a blow to the head (hitting the head) that is strong enough so that the brain is shaken and/ or rotated within the skull. Not every bump to the head will result in a concussion!

However, the term ‘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, 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 30 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 is a concussion? What does the word mean?

Well, the actual word concussion means ‘shaking’. Within the context of a brain injury, a concussion leads to a so-called ‘neurometabolic’ cascade. In other words, brain injury occurs at the cellular level. Only in more severe cases will there be evidence of actual structural changes that can be seen on brain imaging such as CT or MRI (e.g., contusions).

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).

In clinical terms, concussion refers to a syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that 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 a 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), an employer’s/ colleague’s support when returning to work in a gradual fashion.

The most common and longer-lasting symptoms after a concussion are fatigue and headaches in addition to slowed thinking speed and associated emotional difficulties (eg., stress, anxiety). If you would like to know how to address symptoms after a concussion, you could read more on Emotional Distress and Symptom Management following Injury and Disease.

If you need to know how to get better after a concussion, you can continue reading How can I get better after a concussion or if you have more specific questions, you can e-mail Heike @ to set up a free 15- 20 minute phone or skype consult to ask questions or just schedule the consult here

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What is concussion?
Heike @ Mind your Brain explains the difference between the terms 'mild traumatic brain injury' and 'concussion'.
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Mind your Brain
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