What Is Occurring During In The Brain During A Concussion?

Many people know what a concussion is, but they don’t know what is specifically happening in the brain after the impact has occurred.  After the impact has occurred there is a depolarization and action potential which causes a release of neurotransmitters in the neuron.  This will then cause an influx of ions into the brain cell.  The cell will then try to pump all of these ions back out of the cell.  When that many are present in the cell the mitochondria becomes stressed.  The mitochondria are the part of the cell that makes the energy to transport the ions out of the cell.  When a concussion occurs they go into overdrive and are not able to keep up.  This causes a buildup of lactic acid in the cell to occur.   Another outcome from this is that the body uses a lot of energy to get rid of these ions from the cell.  This is why someone feels fatigued after they have a concussion.

One of the main problems that can occur with concussions is if there are multiple concussions in short time span.  This causes too large of influx of ions into the cell and the cell cannot handle it.  This is when cell death can occur.  This is also when permanent damage can occur.  One neurodegenerative disease that can occur from multiple concussions is   Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  CTE is a generally found in athletes that have played a contact sport, such as boxing and football.  The symptoms of CTE include dementia type symptoms, including memory loss, personality changes, Parkinsonism, and speech abnormalities.  CTE causes large scale atrophy, particularly in the cerebrum, medial temporal lobes, thalamus, mammilary bodies, and brainstem.  One of the most famous cases of CTE was Junior Seau.  He was a professional footballer that was with the San Diego Chargers for most of his career.  He committed suicide and many people believe that he had CTE.  They thought that his multiple blows to the head were the reason for his depression.

The problem is that it is hard to diagnosis a concussion medically.   The problem is that many people do not go seek a physician after they get a concussion.  They only talk to their trainer or coach after it occurs or a suspected concussion occurs.  This is where the first problem comes about.  Some athletes do not want to tell someone that they have a concussion.  This is because they don’t want to sit out of the “big game” or they don’t want to let down the fans.  The other issue that can occur after the concussion is reported is that the proper next step has occurred.  The next step tends to be that the athlete will take the IMPACT test.  The IMPACT is a good test to see a person has a concussion but they still have to go to a physician if they have a concussion.  A problem with an impact test though is that some athletes will do poorly on them on purpose.  This is so that if they do have a concussion it may not be noticeable.  In the end, if someone thinks that they have a concussion they should always go see a physician afterwards.  Proper rest is need to fully heal after a concussion.