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Concussion Unpacked

The most underreported, under diagnosed and underestimated brain trauma by far is concussion. Concussion accounts for 90% of TBI with millions of trauma cases every year. Through our field research, outreach, and education, Brain Trauma Foundation is leading the charge to better prevent, diagnose, and manage concussion.

Concussion Guidelines
Our Research
Concussion basics
Identifying and Managing
Research Advances


What is a concussion?

  • A change in brain function following an external force to the head
  • May be accompanied by temporary loss of consciousness
  • Is identified in awake individuals
  • Has measures of neurologic and cognitive dysfunction

Brain Trauma Foundation developed this definition based on the most current evidence available. It is used by leading organizations, such as the NCAA.

Source

Concussion basics

A concussion is caused by an external force hitting the head. This can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone in situations like sports games, car crashes, or falls. In the U.S. alone, reports estimate over 2.5 million cases of concussion annually.

What is a typical recovery?

Most people with a concussion recover fully after the injury, and 98% of people recover in the 1 - 3 months post-concussion. However, not all symptoms improve at the same time, and everyone recovers differently.

Learn more


What is a concussion?

  • A change in brain function following an external force to the head
  • May be accompanied by temporary loss of consciousness
  • Is identified in awake individuals
  • Has measures of neurologic and cognitive dysfunction

Brain Trauma Foundation developed this definition based on the most current evidence available. It is used by leading organizations, such as the NCAA.

Source

Identifying and Managing

Common signs and symptoms following a concussion can include:

  • Disorientation or confusion immediately after the event
  • Impaired balance
  • Slower reaction time
  • Impaired attention and memory
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Sleep difficulties


Additional long term symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Nervousness
  • Sadness
  • Irritability


For best treatment and recovery, Brain Trauma Foundation recommends:

  • Starting cardio exercise as soon as possible after concussion
  • Improving sleep quality, including sleeping through the night
  • Maintaining a positive outlook

Learn more


What is a concussion?

  • A change in brain function following an external force to the head
  • May be accompanied by temporary loss of consciousness
  • Is identified in awake individuals
  • Has measures of neurologic and cognitive dysfunction

Brain Trauma Foundation developed this definition based on the most current evidence available. It is used by leading organizations, such as the NCAA.

Source

Research Advances

There is no single measure or protocol to diagnose concussion. Brain Trauma Foundation believes that medical professionals should use a combination of attention, balance, and memory tests when evaluating a concussed patient. However, the current diagnosis typically relies on symptoms.

Brain Trauma Foundation has changed that by developing the first measure of attention via eye-tracking goggle technology: EYE-SYNC. This groundbreaking test measures a person’s ability to pay attention by tracking eye movements while following a target moving in a circle.

Examples of eye-tracking results:


EYE-SYNC, now available via Brain Trauma Foundation’s spin-off company, Sync Think, overcomes the limitations of traditional cognitive testing to provide an easy-to-use, rapid, objective tool for initial screening and recovery monitoring. For more information, visit SyncThink.

Other technologies

In addition to eye tracking, other tools and technologies are currently being tested. These include:

Biomarker: Brain cell proteins released after force to the head into the blood.

Imaging: The use of various techniques to either directly or indirectly image the structure, function/pharmacology of the nervous system.

Accelerometer: An electromechanical device that measures acceleration forces.

EEG: A test used to detect abnormalities related to electrical activity of the brain by tracking and recording brain wave patterns

Myth or Fact

Male athletes suffer a higher rate of concussion than female athletes.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a myth.
False! It's a myth.

Female athletes are 1.4 times more likely than male athletes to suffer a concussion. In fact, research shows that in comparison to their male counterparts, female soccer players can suffer up to 40% more concussions, and female basketball players can suffer 240% more.

A concussed person should stay in a dark room and limit brain and body activity for 1-2 weeks following the event.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a myth.
False! It's a myth.

Previously, medical professionals often recommended rest following a concussion. However, current research indicates that early exercise improves concussion recovery.

Every five seconds, a man, woman, or child suffers a traumatic brain injury in the U.S.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a fact.
False! It's a fact.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur all too often – every five seconds. In fact, TBI is the leading cause of death among adolescents.

Medical costs associated with traumatic brain injuries are low compared to other illnesses.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a myth.
False! It's a myth.

The estimated annual cost to U.S. society for care and lost productivity due to brain injury is $76.5 billion.

Only athletes suffer from mild or severe TBI.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a myth.
False! It's a myth.

235,046 US service members were diagnosed with a TBI from 2000-2011. That’s 4.2% of all service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Medical professionals don't fully understand what a concussion is.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a fact.
False! It's a fact.

Medical professionals disagree on how to diagnose a concussion. Historically, symptoms, such as headache, have been used as a diagnostic tool. However, current research suggests that medical professionals should instead focus on important brain functions affected by a force to the head, such as attention and balance.

Helmets prevent concussions.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a myth.
False! It's a myth.

Helmets prevent scalp injuries and skull fractures. A concussion results from a whiplash-type head motion. Only by restricting the motions of the neck can risk of concussion be reduced.

70% of traumatic brain injury patients complain of sleep disturbances.

Myth OR Fact
Correct! It's a fact.
False! It's a fact.

Most patients suffer some degree of disrupted sleep following a concussion.

Working closely with a first class organization like Brain Trauma Foundation has been an extremely rewarding experience for our program. Not only have we been intimately involved with BTF in cutting edge scientific research around our nation’s most pressing public health matter, we have seen first hand how BTF is positioned to lead the way in providing an evidence base to properly educate the public and enhance the quality of care provided to the many whom suffer from concussion every day in this country.

- Scott C. Anderson, MA, ATC, FMSC, SNSP, Director, Athletic Training, Stanford Sports Medicine

One of the scariest moments of my professional career was seeing a teammate after she suffered from a concussion. She continued to play in the game, and afterwards she didn't even know who she was. I remain friends with her and to this day, years later, I continue to see the effects that those concussions have on her daily life.

- Danielle Slaton, Coaching for Life Academy Director, Santa Clara University Former member of U.S. Women's National Team, Soccer

Being born with Cerebral Palsy made me very aware of the dangers of head trauma. I have seen first hand the effects of concussions. While playing in the 2007 Para Pan-American games a teammate went up for a head ball and collided with an opposing player. This teammate tried to stay in the game but couldn't walk with control and had no idea where he was. After the game he continued to ask basic questions over and over. While he ultimately recovered it was scary to see this happen in person.

- Chris Ahrens, Team USA Para Soccer

I think a concussion is one of the scariest injuries that you can get. When you break your arm, you’re still you. You still can think, you can still function fine. But when you hurt your brain, even when it’s minor, even when it’s not major, it’s like you’re not you for awhile, and that’s definitely frightening.

- Reed Snyderman, Junior Olympic Freestyle Skier

I was bedridden, forced to stare at the four walls that surrounded me day by day. I laid there wondering will I ever feel normal again and symptom free. After eight months of no school, technology, visual stimulation and physical activity, I went into a dark place. I felt very alone and wished there was someone for me to talk to who understood how I was feeling and what I was going through. Having the goal of surfing again and getting back to competition was what got me through my injury. Concussions are so scary because you don't know how long it will take to heal completely and the only answer doctors told me was: time.

- Harley Taich, Professional Surfer and Author