Not all bumps to the head result in damage, but most should be taken seriously. Our brains are delicate organs responsible for a wide variety of tasks, so although it can be tempting to downplay injury, doing so can be a big mistake. Awareness of the dangers of brain injuries is essential to safety. It has been estimated that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are so common that each year, they contribute to more than one-quarter of injury-related deaths and are a diagnosis in millions of emergency department visits. A popular buzzword in mainstream media right now due to the NFL, “concussions” are a mild form of TBI, and the terms should not be used interchangeably. TBIs are caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move quickly back and forth, slamming into the sides of the skull. Even when the force is not violent, injury can result from sudden movements that squeeze or stretch the neural cells and change the precise balance needed for proper information processing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the following definition of mild brain injury: A case of mild traumatic brain injury is an occurrence of injury to the head resulting from blunt trauma or acceleration or deceleration forces with one or more of the following conditions attributable to the head injury during the surveillance period:
- Any period of observed or self-reported transient confusion, disorientation, or impaired consciousness;
- Any period of observed or self-reported dysfunction of memory (amnesia) around the time of injury;
- Observed signs of other neurological or neuropsychological dysfunction, such as—
- Seizures acutely following head injury;
- Among infants and very young children: irritability, lethargy, or vomiting following head injury;
- Symptoms among older children and adults such as headache, dizziness, irritability, fatigue, or poor concentration, when identified soon after injury, can be used to support the diagnosis of mild TBI, but cannot be used to make the diagnosis in the absence of loss of consciousness or altered consciousness. Further research may provide additional guidance in this area.
- Any period of observed or self-reported loss of consciousness lasting 30 minutes or less.