The Invisible Injury

Every sport has common injuries. Gymnastics has wrist and back problems , football had ACL  tears, basketballs has sprained ankles. Of course those injuries overlap into other sports, but another injury that they all have in common, along with many other sports, are concussions. Concussions are tricky because unlike a broken arm, you can’t see when a someone is concussed.


Since you can’t see what is going on, it’s hard to know what exactly is happening in the brain. Concussions happened when someone is hit or hits their head. The initial place of contact is where the coup (French for “blow”) injury takes place. However, the brain also receives a second injury called the contrecoup, which is the result of the brain smacking the other side of the head.


People sometimes refer to concussions as a brain bruise, however the brain responds to this “bruise” quite differently than any other bruise in the body. After the initial hit, the lipid membrane in the brain get stretched allowing ion (positive and negative charged molecules) to be released when they shouldn’t be. The rapid shift in ion placement is correlated with migraines that people may experience after a blow to the head. This efflux of ions leads to an energy crisis because now the brain has to work overtime to pump the ions back into the places they should be. This process can take days, which is why it is important not to sustain another concussion during the healing process.


This stretch also damages the axons. Axons are like tunnels that carry signals from one end to the next. When they are damaged it’s like there is a rock in the middle of the tunnel, now no more signals can pass through. In severe cases this can lead to the death of that cell and unlike other cells in the body, neurons rarely under go cell division.


The brain also experiences impaired neurotransmission and also protease activation. Impaired neurotransmission is associated with impaired cognition and slowed processing and reaction time. While protease activation is associated with persistent impairments.


Although the damage done by a concussion is not visible, it is important to realize what is actually going on in the brain after a traumatic brain injury.

For more reading on what happens in the brain after a concussion, check out:


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