Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury most commonly results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body, often caused by vehicular-related collisions, falls and sports injuries. The violent blow or jolt causes the brain to collide with the inside of the skull, which can cause bruising of the brain, tearing of nerve fibers and bleeding.
There are two different categories of TBIs, mild and severe. Severe TBIs are usually easy for doctors to diagnose because there is visible damage to the brain such as bleeding, swelling, or penetration of an object. Mild TBIs are much harder to diagnose and have therefore been termed a “silent epidemic” because many patients do not have visible physical signs. Instead they possess cognitive, psychological, and/or behavioral impairments that are often unnoticed or misdiagnosed.
I, along with many of my peers are very visual people. We understand things by being able to look at them or feel them. This is why mild TBIs are very difficult for many people to understand and take seriously. In middle school I played soccer. Every season I would break a finger, get a bruise, or pull a muscle. All very minor, and easy to diagnose. However, one season I got kicked in the head. I immediately fell over and the next thing I remembered was my coaches helping me off the field. I sat out for a couple minutes but then my coaches out me back in. On the way home in the car was when my mom became concerned. She started thinking about the logistics and was concerned why I had fallen forward, when I had been kicked backwards. She asked me what the first thing I remembered was after falling. I told her the first thing I remembered was my coaches helping me off the field. This was a red flag for my mom because according to her a minute passed between the time I fell and my coaches made it on the field to help me. After a visit to the doctor, it was determined that I had a concussion, so for the next couple weeks I didn’t participate in sports or gym and gave my brain time to heal.
Fortunately, my mom was very adept and able to realize that my fall was more than just a tumble. However, even just a few years ago many coaches and parents were not trained on how to look for possible concussions. Athletes would receive a blow to the head and continue playing because there were no obvious symptoms. Now, many athletes I know have realized that they have had multiple concussions and didn’t even realize it. They thought the headaches and tiredness were unrelated to the fall or blow to the head last game. I have a close friend who has had five concussions, because he did not allow his brain to heal properly after the first one, which made it increasingly easy for him to get another one. He now suffers from constant headaches and is no longer allowed to play on the Rugby team.
In recent years concussions, a very common type of TBI, have become a heavily discussed topic, especially in the athletic community. Coaches have been given information on looking out for symptoms of concussions and protocol has been established for what coaches should do when an athlete receives a blow to the head. I still believe there is more to be done. I think many athletes feel that since concussions usually have no visible injuries they appear “weak” sitting out. It’s important to get rid of this stigma and establish the serious nature of even mild TBIs. I would like to educate others about TBIs by encouraging well respected athletes to come forward about how ignoring head injuries as young adults affected them later in life. If young athletes see how ignoring TBIs can lead to long-term cognitive disabilities they are more likely to take care of themselves now.