What Is a Concussion and How Bad Can It Be?

Jonathan Fravel@jfravel135Senior Analyst IOctober 5, 2009

Concussion is a reference to traumatic brain injury.

There are different grades of injury and different classification systems for the direct manifestations of the injury. Classification systems are helpful to describe the severity of the injury but may not necessarily correlate with the outcome.

For the particular instance of brain injury, manifestations range from memory loss, duration of memory loss, confusion, disorientation (duration), loss of consciousness (including duration), and comatose state.

The classification systems don't even take into consideration other manifestations such as dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, double vision and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Other manifestations may occur on an individual basis, and they may last longer in one instance when compared to another. The brain is a very durable structure with lots of built-in protection. But once an injury occurs, it is hard to determine how well the injury will respond to the healing process. The primary means of treatment is rest.

What occurs when the brain is injured? The organic manifestation of trauma ranges from a "stunning" of normal neuron function with no residual effects to actual injury that leads to cellular destruction and development of a "brain scar."

A special type of injury that can occur in neural tissue is referred to as "shear axonal injury" with or without hemorrhage. Shear injury refers to an injury that occurs because of the specialized structure of the neuron.

A nerve cell has "tentacles" that travel from one cell to the next. These "appendages" are most fragile at their "joints" or synapses and at the juncture of the tentacle with the individual cell.

Enough about that.

One of the main things to consider when assessing the degree of injury is whether or not the injury is associated with hemorrhage. Hemorrhage can occur with minor injuries or may not occur with a severe injury. It is one of those unpredictable parameters of a traumatic event.

If hemorrhage has occurred, it generally takes about 8-10 days for the hemorrhage to resolve. In terms of a football schedule, that's two weeks.

What seems to be a simple bang on the head can result in injuries that leave an individual with after-effect that last a lifetime, including the onset of seizures. Amnesia can be permanent.

Other permanent conditions can include changes in personality such as irritability, chronic headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbances. Repeated injuries may lead to longer recovery times, permanent disability and in some cases, early onset dementia.

This is a serious injury in a high performance athlete. It can literally end their career. Tim Tebow is in the national spotlight, as are all of these men.

He apparently has had a very significant injury and I would like to request your prayers to include a concern for his condition.

Consider, as a sports fan, particularly if you are a person of faith, praying for these young men that give us so much enjoyment during weekend events. I'll leave the frequency of prayer up to you.

These athletes are literally putting themselves out there for our enjoyment (but they are having the time of their lives, as well). Give them your utmost consideration and respect. Particularly, respect their right to privacy.