Do You Have Concussion Symptoms?

Concussions (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI) have long been a mysterious and worrying injury for doctors to examine. Concussion symptoms can range anywhere from unconsciousness to memory loss to a slight headache. There is such a range of symptoms that it can be a difficult task for physicians to medically diagnose a concussion.

Most head injuries are minor — bumps, headaches or the occasional fall. These types of injuries happen with few repercussions. When they’re not, though, they can lead to serious short-term and long-term problems, including dizziness, headache, memory loss and slurred speech, to name a few.

Sometimes concussions are immediately apparent. Other times, the symptoms are not as obvious. Here are a few signs you should look for in a concussion:

  1. Not thinking clearly
  2. Slow reaction time
  3. Lack of concentration
  4. Loss of memory
  5. Headache(s)
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Nausea or vomiting
  8. Dizziness
  9. Sensitivity to light or noise
  10. Feeling tired or lacking energy
  11. Increased sadness
  12. Nervousness
  13. More emotional
  14. Change in sleep patterns

If you think you might have a concussion, it is crucial that you contact a professional as quickly as possible. This is far easier said than done, though. The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Some symptoms may last for days, or even longer.

Many concussion symptoms may occur without a concussion, which means they can be especially difficult to diagnose. If you have several of these symptoms, though, you should contact a physician immediately. Even if immediate attention isn’t needed, having a concussion without proper medical attention can lead to long-term problems.

How Concussions Happen

In layman’s terms, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body. This can come from a fall, a hit or any other injury that violently shakes the brain inside of the skull.

Basically, your brain is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by your skull. The fluid normally acts as a cushion, but when your head gets hit too hard, the brain can crash into the skull and get injured. This typically results in a concussion.

Concussions are unusual for most people but for athletes, some workers, and extreme sports enthusiasts, concussions are more common. The problem with this is that as more research is being done on the long-term effects of concussions on professional athletes, we are learning that these bumps on the noggin can have a much deeper consequence.

DTI Exams Measure Brain Injuries Unseen on Other Exams

Any kind of traumatic brain injury is cause for concern but now Doctors Imaging has a beneficial new technology that can help determine the extent of brain injury and nerve damage due to a concussion. It’s called Diffusion Tensor Imaging or DTI.

Doctors Imaging was the first to introduce New Orleans to a 3.0T MRI and we added Diffusion Tensor Imaging to our services in 2016. Where standard MRIs are well-equipped to obtain useful and comprehensive images of brain tissue, DTI is an advanced form of MRI technology that improves diagnostic practices, particularly in the diagnosis of and recovery from concussions.

Most MRIs can tell if there is tissue damage or bleeding, but DTI exams measure whether there is nerve damage in specific areas of the brain’s white matter. Along with internal bleeding, nerve damage is the primary concern for physicians when dealing with a concussed patient. If you were to look at the health histories of former football players or boxers, you would notice that they have a higher prevalence of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) and other neurological disorders as they age. Many people believe the increased incidence of these diseases in these athletes comes from repeated exposure to head and back trauma.

DTI exams are able to focus on the connecting circuits of the brain and localize nerve damage. By recognizing this nerve damage, doctors can keep a close eye on their patient and help them during the recovery from their injury.

One factor that most doctors are very concerned about when they are seeing a concussion patient is an axonal injury. An axonal injury happens when a brain injury causes extensive lesions in the white matter tracts in a widespread or localized area. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is so worrying because it can be indicative of long-term brain deficiency. DAI occurs in almost half of all concussion cases. And now with a DTI exam, doctors will be able to make diagnoses and recoveries easier and more beneficial.

As with MRI exams, DTI exams do not use radiation. It is a non-invasive exam and has extremely high success rates. So if you or someone you know has concussion symptoms, be sure learn more about DTI exams from our medical partners at The Concussion Group.

How Do MRIs Help Diagnose an Athlete’s Injuries?

Almost every week there is a news story on television or online that tells terrified fans that some of the best players on their teams face a debilitating injury. Athletic injuries are some of the worst to treat, not only because of the degree of injury but the damage an injury could have on a person’s quality of life and career.

As opposed to everyday employees injured on the job, professional athletes cannot sue their team for unemployment or for workman’s compensation. Instead they have to hope that the medical professionals around them can help them heal and get back to the game.

Every kind of sport has a tendency toward a specific injury. Because basketball players have to jump and pivot, they often suffer tearing in the ACL ligament. While a tear may not sound as a bad as a breakage, ligaments are fragile. They can repair but they will never be as strong as they once were. MRIs determine the extent of an ACL injury because they’re exceptional when examining the areas of soft tissue and ligaments. For example, Baylor Bears star Isaiah Austin was a first-round draft prospect until diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a condition that causes weakening of the connective tissues in the body. If Austin were a civilian, it may not have been a huge detriment to his life, but because of his professional basketball prospects, there is too much risk of his heart rupturing because of the connective tissue in the aorta and valves. MRIs along with genetic testing may have helped Austin to discover his Marfan Syndrome but he was still awarded as an Honorary Draft pick and given a job at the NBA.

In recent years, the brain damage that football players experience has become a popular news topic. Because of the routine, aggressive contact, like “horse collaring,” between players and the prevalence of head-to-head injury, more professional and college football players are having MRIs performed to assess any possible damage to the brain. Despite their heavy layers of protection from helmets and shoulder guards, the pure physics of football can explain the widespread damage. When two bodies are traveling at high speed and collide, the impact is the combined speed of the players. This kind of contact explains the predominance of concussions and brain injury to football players. In light of the overwhelming evidence, football safety engineers are working on designing high-impact protection helmets but the best thing for many of these players would be to have regular MRI exams utilizing special techniques like DTI (Diffusion Tensor Imaging) and SWI, another type of MRI. Mild brain trauma is not evident unless these special techniques are employed. Doctors Imaging is one of the few facilities in the South that offers these special MRI programs. Furthermore, the NFL has agreed to pay out settlements to former players with brain injuries stemming from their professional career. The extent of the damage was kept from them for many years, showing how dangerous this American pastime can be.

Baseball players are another sector of professional athletes often troubled by injury. Conditions like torn rotator cuffs and Tommy John elbow surgery are common in baseball because of the need to throw high-speed and long-distance pitches. Overexertion or incorrect motion causes these injuries and can easily put a player on the bench for a season. That is why it is important for players to have shoulders and elbows examined with MRI at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Leaving the problem to worsen can be the difference between a season on the bench and a career-ending injury.

While they may be well-paid and have all the spoils that come with professional athletics, they are also the most prone to career ending injuries. That is why having regular MRIs is one of the best treatment options for professional or college athletes.