March 2017 \ World News \ MIND AND BODY
Psychiatric Aspects of Concussion: What the Public Should Know

Sports concussion has become one of the most media covered topics in the world of sports globally. Key players missing

By Prof. David Baron
  • Prof. David Baron

Sports concussion has become one of the most media covered topics in the world of sports globally. Key players missing competitions as a result of suffering a concussion is no longer a topic restricted to sports medicine physicians. The impact of concussion on youth sports has become an important discussion among youth sports organizers and government officials, including ministers of sports. Despite its high visibility, many more questions than answers exist regarding diagnosis and treatment of mild repetitive concussion.  Key issues for the public include; rule changes (which some feel would change the soul of the game), should children be exposed to contact/collision sports, how is mild concussion detected and treated, and how long should an athlete refrain from participation after suffering a concussion.

Unlike major brain trauma, referred to as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), concussion has only recently been considered a significant long-term health risk. Virtually all of the medical literature has focused on TBI. Unfortunately, TBI research teaches us almost nothing about concussion. The symptoms experienced with concussion are similar to mental health complaints. These include changes in mood, focus, concentration, sleep, energy levels, balance, and headaches.

What is a concussion?  The term concussion is derived from the Latin term Concutere, which means to shake violently. Concussion occurs when the brain becomes shaken within the skull, resulting in damage to the brains delicate tissues and fragile connections.  A commonly held misperception among many physicians and the general public is that concussion requires a blow to the head. In fact, some of the most severe concussion are the result of blows to the body (with the force being transmitted to the brain), or with no direct contact to the head or body resulting from exposure to blast. This is more common for soldiers and those exposed to blast injury. Another common misconception is that concussion requires a loss of consciousness. Virtually all mild concussions do not results in being knocked out, but rather being stunned or temporarily dazed. This is in fact a hallmark of concussion.