Now that the seasonal football craze is starting to subside, perhaps I can safely bring up one of the downsides of this popular national sport. As a neurologist, when I think football, I can't help but think concussion. It doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good football game. I just also remember the possible consequences.
While we come across the term a lot, it turns out there's no small amount of controversy about what constitutes a concussion, what risks are associated with concussion, and how the disorder can best be treated. Concussion is considered a form of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Briefly, a concussion involves a head injury associated with some change in consciousness. This does not have to be a loss of consciousness as is often believed--a period of confusion or altered awareness also counts. In addition, many other symptoms can be associated with concussion.
Some have found it helpful to divide the impairments after mTBI into three categories:
1) somatic consequences. These include headache, nausea, and sleep disturbances.
2) cognitive dysfunction. Examples include slower thinking and difficulty paying attention.
3) emotion and behavior: this includes depression, irritability, and impulsivity.
These symptoms can affect any person at any age. Furthermore, multiple concussions can lead to premature dementia, and while it's probably rare, even one concussion may lead to lasting side effects in some people. You can learn more about concussion and other forms of traumatic brain injury this week, starting here: Could You Have Postconcussive Syndrome?