Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is a condition resulting in a set of complex physical, psychological and cognitive symptoms as a result of a brain injury. Brain injury can occur in any situation. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reports that approximately 700,000 people per year in England and Wales are admitted to A&E with a head injury. Traumatic brain injuries can be incredibly difficult to understand. The effects range from minor and temporary to severe and life changing.
Brain injury in sport is particularly prevalent, in Rugby for example, concussions have doubled in the last seven years and it is believed that on average one player at every Six Nations match suffers a brain injury* – how can we reduce this?
What causes Post-Concussion Syndrome?
At present, the exact cause of PCS is unknown but one theory suggests that PCS is caused due to a chemical imbalance in the brain that is triggered by the initial brain injury. Others believe PCS may be caused by structural damage to the nerve cells in the brain as a result of the impact from the injury. The brain is a soft organ surrounded by spinal fluid. This fluid acts like a cushion during normal movement of the head. But if the head or body sustains a violent impact, the brain can crash into the skull. The resulting injury can damage the delicate neural pathways in the brain, leading to neurological disturbances and abnormal brain activity.
What are the symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome?
There are many physical and psychological symptoms of PCS such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, depression but often it is the cognitive symptoms that are the most debilitating such as:
- Memory loss including both new and old information
- Poor concentration span
- Difficulties with reasoning
In some cases, an individual may lose consciousness as a result of the head injury. However, only around 10% of reported concussions involve a loss of consciousness, so it is important to not solely rely on this as an indicator.
Concussion – Recovery
- Most cases recover within 10-14 days
- It can however take up to four weeks
- 1 in 10 affected individuals will still have symptoms during the course of one year.
- Higher risk of further concussion or other injuries
- Prolonged symptoms
- Potential long term damage to brain function
The three main causes of concussion in the UK are:
- Road accidents
- Accidental trips or falls
- Sporting or other recreational activities
What can be done to reduce Post-Concussion Syndrome?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent concussion, but there are some simple things you can do that may reduce risk of head injury.
Protective headgear is essential to reducing the risk of brain injury, whether on the sports field or in the work place. Hard hats are nothing new but they are an essential piece of safety equipment and employers must ensure the right safety culture exists to ensure their usage. Falls are one of the biggest causes of brain injury so ensuring adequate housekeeping procedures, correct flooring and appropriate footwear usage is in place is critical. Only use ladders in a workplace environment for short term light work.
If you suspect that you have concussion you should contact your GP immediately.
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* The Obligatory Head Injury, Rugby Post 21/9/2015