Moe, Larry, and Curly of the Three Stooges definitely know what it’s like to get bonked on the head a few times. This comedic trio, along with several classic cartoons, depicts a nice whack on the head as a humorous and harmless gesture, causing nothing more than a few birds to fly around, followed by an immediate recovery. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works in real life. Concussions and head injuries are a serious matter that can have severe effects on the body and brain.
Causes of concussions can range from a fall, a hit on the head, or even a strong force of pressure (like an explosion). Our brain is made of soft tissue and it is surrounded by spinal fluid and blood to cushion and protect it. When there is a forceful motion of the head, the brain suddenly shifts inside the skull and can knock against the skull’s bony surface. Even if we’re not falling off cliffs or holding dynamite sticks like Road Runner cartoon star Wilde E. Coyote, something as simple as playing sports, riding a bike, or a car accident can cause a concussion.
Concussions can last a long or short time and can range from mild to severe depending upon how hard the brain is shaken inside the skull. The symptoms of a concussion can include:
- Feeling spacy, acting confused or abnormal, not thinking straight
- Poor memory, poor attention and focusing skills
- Feeling sleepy, drowsy or hard to wake up
- Headache and/or stiff neck
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness or alertness, even if for a brief moment
- Amnesia or forgetfulness of the events just before or right after the injury
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seeing flashing lights or blackness
- Altered balance or dizziness
It’s extremely critical that we keep an eye on someone who has recently experienced a head injury because sometimes symptoms of a concussion don’t start until later. A trip to the ER isn’t always necessary, but seek medical attention immediately if someone is suffering from any of the following: seizures, confusion that does not diminish, inability to walk or talk, blood leakage from noise or ears, different-sized pupils, double or blurred vision, unconsciousness, muscle weakness on one or both sides of the body such that you might not be able to move an arm or leg, or repeated vomiting.
Recovering from a concussion takes time and practice. Doctors will perform a number of tests, including asking you basic questions to check your memory and ability to concentrate, seeing how your eyes react to light to check your balance and reflexes, and sometimes a CAT scan to make sure there is no bleeding or bruising inside your head. Upon being released from the hospital, you will be given a treatment plan that should be followed closely. When recovering from a concussion, the brain needs to rest. It is not unusual to feel withdrawn and tired, experience mild headaches, be less tolerant of noise, and feel nervous or anxious. Healing time varies by person, but it could take some people days, weeks, or even months until they completely recover. It’s extremely important to avoid tasks that require concentration or complicated thinking such as reading, homework, computer games, and writing. Bright lights, loud noises or anything else that will over stimulate the brain should be avoided as well. Research shows that if you get another concussion during the recovery period, it could harm the brain more seriously. So whether your bike ride turned into a close-up encounter with the pavement, or your sibling decided to practice their World Wrestling Federation Smackdown moves on you, never take a concussion lightly. See a doctor, get plenty of rest, and while it’s fine to watch the Three Stooges, maybe don’t mimic them in real life.
Learn about how you are personally at risk for a head injury and click here to check out all the preventive measures you can take.