Have you ever hit your head really hard, or seen someone take a massive blow to the head? It has been estimated that someone injures his or her head every 21 seconds! Many of these head injuries result in a condition called concussion, which is also known as traumatic brain injury. Although the brain is protected by the skull and spinal fluid that surrounds the brain, an injury to the head, or even having your body shaken around wildly, can jolt your brain, which can actually cause it to move around in your head! Traumatic brain injuries can result in bruising, damage to the blood vessels (bleeding), as well as injuring the nerves of the brain.
Whether you injure your head on the sports field or even in the comfort of your own home, when you hit your head hard enough to go into a state of concussion you may experience the following: headache, confusion and memory loss, nausea and vomiting, blurry vision, dizziness, slurred speech, feeling dizzy or problems balancing, sensitivity to noise and light … (wow, this is a long list right?) … buzzing or ringing in your ears, clumsiness, you may feel sluggish and tired, have difficulty concentrating, and you may even experience a change in your personality and general behaviour! Some symptoms won’t even appear until a few hours or even days later. It is not at all exciting to experience any of these symptoms, but how do we know when these symptoms begin to pose a really dangerous problem?
If you have obtained a head injury it is advised that you go to a doctor for a check-up, even if no emergency medical care was needed at the time that you injured yourself. Rather be safe than sorry! However, if you injure your head and lose consciousness for more than 30 seconds, and the nasty symptoms I mentioned above worsen or continue over an extended period of time, it is vital that you get some emergency medical assistance ASAP!
If for some or other reason you are unable to get immediate medical help, make sure that you do the following to avoid further complications:
- Rest as much as possible. Do not play sports or participate in other physical activities that will increase your heart rate (such as going for long walks or going to the gym). If you injure your head on the sports field and lose consciousness or experience any of the symptoms, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT return to play. You will be putting yourself at risk of having another concussion, which can lead to brain swelling, permanent brain damage and even death. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
- Avoid activities that need a lot of your focused attention such as texting on your phone, watching TV, playing video games, working on a computer, and even homework. These activities can aggravate and worsen your symptoms, especially headaches and sensitivity to light.
- If you’ve hurt your head and have a bad headache (and you suspect that you may have a concussion), avoid taking medication that contains aspirin, as it may put you at a higher risk of bleeding. If you are involved in high-contact sports such as rugby, boxing and hockey, for example, make sure that you have some aspirin-free pain medication sin your bag just in case.
Can you avoid traumatic brain injuries? You can’t prevent yourself from obtaining a concussion altogether, but there are a few precautionary steps you can take to reduce your chances of really injuring your head.
Wear protective gear when you participate in high-contact sports. Helmets, mouth guards and eye guards might not be the sexiest items to wear, but they can help to reduce traumatic head injuries by 85%. Make sure that they fit you properly and are in good shape and working order. Boys (okay, maybe some girls too), do not fight! Fist fights often result in unnecessary concussions.
Drive smart – wear your seatbelt whenever you enter a car and make sure that whoever is driving the vehicle is sober and fit to drive.
Make your home a safe environment by making sure that all steps and other hazards are clearly visible, or avoidable, to prevent falling and injuring yourself and your head.
Traumatic brain injuries often occur in our bathrooms when we are wet, after climbing out of the shower or bath. Make sure you place bathmats down to prevent slipping.
Lastly, know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Help educate your family, friends and coaches to ensure that any possible concussion is treated with care and caution.
By: Courtney Dreyer