Concussion is a disturbance of the brain’s ability to acquire and process information. The impaired function of the brain represents damage to nerve cells (neurons). The neurons can be damaged by a direct blow to the head, which causes the brain to rotate and/or move forward and backward. Indirect impact to the body can transfer an impulsive force to the brain and has a similar effect.
How common is concussion?
1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur in sport every year in the United States. In Australia, the probability of sustaining concussion while playing in any of the football codes is approximately 1 in 7.
Effects of Concussion
Concussion results in changes to the speed at which the brain functions. These include changes to the pattern of neuron conduction, glucose energy metabolism, membrane protein expression and brain blood flow. The net effect of these changes is an energy shortage for the brain.
An indirect marker of the brain’s energy balance is N–acetylaspartate (NAA). NAA is measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and can be used as an index of metabolic recovery after concussion in athletes. This can explain why some athletes display significant cognitive (thinking) problems yet conventional scans lack sensitivity to detect neurotransmitter levels.
NAA levels have been found to be lower than normal for up to 30 days after concussion – long after the athlete became asymptomatic. This leaves the brain at risk of injury if a second impact is sustained during this window of vulnerability.
In the past, medical professionals turned to traditional imaging studies such as CT and MRI scans to exclude structural brain injury after head trauma. Although these tests remain relevant, they identify structural, not functional brain injuries, and are of limited use to evaluate concussion severity.
The Sports Concussion Programme has developed a series of concussion testing products and applications that are accessible and easy to use, generating results within minutes.
Find out more about our simple and effective concussion tests now.