You could have a concussion and not realize it

rocky mountain brain and spine center valley viewMegan loved to play soccer. While normally a quiet, high school sophomore, her competitive nature was unmistakable when she took the field. It was the quarterfinals of the girl’s state soccer tournament when during the second half she collided with another player, being knocked to the ground. After lying motionless on the field long enough for the training staff to reach her, she slowly sat up and walked off the field on her own. Despite concerns from the training staff, Megan reassured them she was OK. She then quickly returned to play.

Later that evening, while celebrating the victory, Megan’s mom noticed she was struggling to answer simple questions and seemed a bit off. Moments later, Megan complained of nausea, headache and feeling a bit odd — sick and dazed. She knew the situation was serious. A trip to the emergency room confirmed a mild concussion.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concussions are a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Normally, the human brain floats in the skull surrounded by cerebral spinal fluid. This fluid acts as a shock absorber for minor impacts. When the brain is forced to one side of the skull and makes contact with the hard surface of the skull because of a strong impact or rapid head movement, a concussion has occurred. The danger of a concussion is that delicate neural pathways in the brain could be damaged by that impact, thus resulting in neurological damage or disturbances.

Anticipating and preventing brain injuries on and off the field is difficult, but there are safety measures that can be taken. Drs. David Miller and Wade Ceola, neurosurgeons at High Mountain Brain & Spinal Surgery Center at Valley View, don’t do a lot of treatment with concussions, yet they’re deeply involved in raising awareness about the importance of recognition and prevention of head injuries. “These are the injuries that we want to avoid, and in some cases can. Wearing the proper safety gear, such as helmets when skiing, climbing, biking and recognizing when you do get hurt you need to take yourself out,” says Dr. Ceola.

A player coming home not remembering things from the game needs to sit out for a while. “For someone that gets their bell rung and doesn’t get knocked out or loses consciousness should be removed for the rest of the game and then up to two weeks on the sidelines,” says Dr. Ceola. If that person gets a second one in the same season, from his standpoint, should be the end of that player’s season.

Family or friends often recognize signs of a concussion and may notice a change in behavior, confusion and change in personality, cloudy thinking or inability to respond to questions. These are all classic signs that a concussion has occurred. “This is something that people really need to be aware of, particularly with team sports,” says Dr. Ceola. Recognizing the injury and being able to decide when a player can return to play.

Regardless of severity, brain injuries need to be taken very seriously, at all ages. Remember that “you want to be doing these things not just today and tomorrow but 10 to 20 years from now,” states Dr. Ceola. For anyone experiencing signs and symptoms it’s important to seek medical attention and take recovery time as needed.

The High Mountain Brain & Spinal Surgery Center provides comprehensive neurosurgical services. The neurosurgeon team of Drs. David Miller and Wade Ceola are experts in complex spine, brain and tumors, trauma-related neurosurgery, with a focus on minimally invasive approaches to healing.

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