Concussions and Whiplash – Have you ever been in a car accident, collided with another person while playing a contact sport, or fallen from a high elevation? If you have, then you’ve probably had a concussion, whiplash, or both!
A concussion is a mild to severe traumatic brain injury that occurs after a sudden, forceful blow to the head or a violent impact to the head and body during a motor vehicle accident, a collision in a contact sport, or a fall. Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include loss of consciousness, headaches, confusion, decline in coordination, memory loss, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, increased fatigue, increased sleepiness, stuttering, depression, and ringing in the ears. These symptoms tend to show up after the injury; however, sometimes symptoms may not show up for hours, days, weeks , or months after the injury.
If you suspect that you or someone else has experienced a concussion, please seek medical attention as soon as possible. A neurological assessment and either an MRI or CT will be performed to evaluate the injury. Though the skull functions to protect the brain against trauma, unfortunately, it does not absorb the impact of force. The cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain inside the skull acts as a cushion. Sometimes the impact from the blow can result in damage to the brain cells without obvious structural damage. In severe events, the brain tissue can begin to swell, causing compressed blood vessels that can limit the blood flow in the brain. Without enough blood flow, the brain does not receive enough oxygen and glucose to function. This may cause a stroke. Concussions can resolve over a few days or weeks, but be advised that during the recovery period, people may become irritable, have sensitivity to light or noise, experience difficulty concentrating, and endure mild to moderate headaches.
From my own experience, I know that having a concussion is not fun. I received a concussion from being rear-ended as I waited to make a left-hand turn into a parking lot. Initially, I was in a state of shock because I didn’t know what had happened. While being assessed in the ER, I began to have a headache and loss of coordination later that evening. I sent text messages with a lot of incomplete sentences and spelling errors to my family. I was far from my normal self. Due to my lack of coordination and inability to think clearly, the only thing that I could do was rest until the concussion resolved itself. I could not do any physical activity for 2 weeks. Though my accident was two years ago and my concussion has resolved, I still have headaches occasionally.
Also, as a result of being rear-ended by a car traveling 45 miles per hour, I had whiplash. Whiplash is the forceful back and forth movement of the neck. The injuries can be mild to severe. My right upper torso was swollen from the impact. Like most people who experienced whiplash, I had pain in my neck, shoulders, a headache for days, lower back pain, and achy muscles. Other symptoms may occur hours after the incident. These include dizziness, difficulty concentrating, increase in headaches, muscle spasms, edema, nerve damage (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar), neck stiffness, and difficulty sleeping.
The best treatment plan for whiplash is immediate medical attention. A CT or MRI of the neck will be needed to assess damage to the nerves and tissue. NSAIDs, physical therapy, massages, along with hot and cold treatments, are necessary. Avoid wearing neck braces, if possible. It is very important to try to increase the mobility of the neck to help prevent neck stiffness. The results of the CT or MRI will determine if further treatment is needed. A referral to a pain management specialist or neurosurgeon may be required.
Akora Illustration’s. (2019). Neck Strain and Whiplash, Neck strain [Illustration].
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2019). Concussion. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Concussion