We all are familiar with the word concussion. Often, we use it when talking about car accidents and trauma. I actually was surprised to read that there is no single definition for concussion.
Typically, it is taken to mean some kind of traumatic event that impacts on the brain and is associated with temporary impact on neurological function. We expect that a concussion will resolve quickly over time by itself.
Researchers out of McMaster University looked at whether a diagnosis of concussion has particular outcomes associated with it. Particularly when it comes to children, using the term “concussion” is far more reassuring than the phrase “mild traumatic brain injury.”
The reality is that while we take concussion to mean a mild event that is transient and will go back to normal, there are 6 different categories of concussion that range in the extreme to loss of consciousness with no return to consciousness and even death as an outcome.
Many things can cause a concussion. A direct hit or blow to the head face or neck or even a blow somewhere else on the body that then transmits an impulsive force to the head can lead to a concussion. When we think of the term we think that most of these events do not cause a loss of consciousness or if they do cause a loss of consciousness, it is very brief.
In this study, the researchers looked at how the term concussion was used in a hospital setting and if labelling a child as having a concussion as opposed to a mild brain injury would impact on outcome and treatment of the child.
To that end, children who were admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of acquired traumatic brain injury were followed over time; 73% were categorized as having mild injuries; 32% were also concurrently labelled as having a diagnosis of concussion.
The concussion label was more likely to be applied to children with mild coma scores. However, more than 62% of kids who did score mild were not labelled as having a concussion, yet 24% of children who had a moderate or severe coma score were labelled as having a concussion.
What the researchers found is that having the concussion label predicted an earlier discharge from the hospital and also meant that these children so labelled also return to school significantly earlier.
It is also known that concussions are under reported by young athletes and their trainers. This supports the feeling that the idea of a concussion is not taken seriously enough. If a parent is told their child has a concussion, the family often does not relate it to a brain injury.
It is important for parents to understand that all these injuries are a form of brain injury. If a child is sent back to school or activity too soon, they are at greater risk for a second injury, poor school performance and they may not feel as well as pre-injury.