Concussions: A Form of Traumatic Brain Injury to be taken seriously

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Melissa Smith
  • Mental Health Flight commander
Some of us old-timers can remember the phrase "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
That slogan can also be applicable to the most common brain injury - a concussion, a mild traumatic brain injury.

Concussions are triggered by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, which causes the brain to bounce rapidly against the hard and inflexible walls of the skull. That movement not only causes bruising and swelling of the brain but also tearing, twisting and sheering of delicate brain tissue.

Symptoms include seeing stars, confusion, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, insomnia, concentration difficulties and changes in balance. Contrary to popular belief a loss of consciousness doesn't always occur with a concussion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million people are diagnosed with sports-related concussions in the U.S., and that number is growing. Sports like soccer, football, ice hockey and cheerleading have been implicated in concussion injuries. 

In fact, concussions are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury in people 15- to 24-years old, and are a frequent injury of deployed military members exposed to blast explosions.

Most recover from concussions; however, if they have more than one concussion in their lifetime their recovery period can take much longer. Therefore, prevention and early identification of a concussion are key principles in safeguarding brain function. Wearing protective gear such as helmets, properly using car seats or seatbelts, and detecting and evaluating head injuries early, will go a long way in ensuring that the mind will not be wasted by a concussion.

For more information: See the CDC's Head's-Up Campaign's website at  concussion_prevention.html, or check out the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center's website at