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Traumatic Brain Injury vs. Concussion: Is There A Difference?

These injuries may be the same, but the terminology used may decide the level of care. Often the terms mild traumatic brain injury and concussion are used interchangeably. An interesting study was recently published in the journal Pediatrics that looked at the consequences of labeling an impact-related mild head injury as a mild traumatic brain injury versus a concussion. Astonishingly, parents were more likely to take the injury more seriously if it was labeled a mild brain injury. An earlier return to school was predictable with a diagnosis of concussion, as well as an earlier discharge from the hospital.

It is postulated that doctors may use the term concussion instead of traumatic brain injury to reduce the alarm parents feel. Unfortunately, the off-shoot of using the term concussion is that it minimizes the injury and implies that there are no long-term consequences.

However, the effects of concussions can be long-lasting. Depression, headaches, dizziness, memory problems, and hearing loss are examples of some of the long-lasting effects of concussions. Many of the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury are often overlooked, such as sleep disturbance, difficulty multi-tasking, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, behavioral changes, memory difficulties, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, restlessness and blurred vision. One of the tools we use in our Sacramento chiropractic practice to evaluate traumatic brain injury is the Rivermeade Post Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire.

Traumatic brain injuries are increasingly being identified in people of all ages. Sports injuries, war injuries and auto accident injuries account for a large number of concussions. It is important to note that traumatic brain injuries can occur in car accidents without the head striking anything due to the inertial effects on the brain and skull. Car crashes speed up (accelerate) and slow down (decelerate) body parts very, very rapidly; often not at the same exact time. This is called inertial injury, i.e. whiplash. In this case, the brain is rapidly accelerated, while the skull is decelerating. In other words, the soft brain crashes into the hard shell of the skull. What happens when you put a ripe peach into a coffee can and shake the can real fast back and forth? The peach bruises from striking the sides of coffee can…much like the brain striking the sides of the skull in a car accident.

Those that return to strenuous activity prematurely before the brain has healed adequately and/or suffer multiple concussions are at increased risk for long-term traumatic brain injury consequences. It is important to see a chiropractor for evaluation after a concussion.

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