What is a Cerebral Concussion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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A cerebral concussion is a brain injury caused by jarring of the brain inside the skull as a result of a head injury. The most common cause of a concussion is a blow or impact which causes the brain to slam into one part of the skull. Often, a so-called “contrecoup” injury is sustained when the brain bounces back against the opposite side of the skull after the initial impact. The severity of a concussion can vary, and it may be necessary to see a neurologist for evaluation and treatment.

The skull is designed to act like a big padded box for the brain and it generally does a very good job of protecting the brain from injury. However, when the skull stops suddenly, the laws of physics still apply, and the brain will remain in motion until it encounters an obstacle in the form of the inside of the skull. Researchers are split on whether or not concussion causes actual physical damage to the brain, but they do acknowledge that cerebral concussion can cause a variety of symptoms. Furthermore, people who experience repeat concussions, such as athletes in contact sports, are at increased risk of developing neurological problems later in life.


Sometimes, the patient loses consciousness after the blow. In other cases, the patient remains alert. Someone with a cerebral concussion will experience symptoms like confusion, nausea, vomiting, headache, and amnesia. It is also possible to develop post-concussion syndrome, characterized by symptoms such as vomiting, frequent headaches, confusion, and sensitivity to light which can persist for up to one year. While people are experiencing symptoms, they are usually advised to avoid contact sports and heavy exertion.

There are some risks to a cerebral concussion, making it important to monitor the patient until she or he is stable. Sometimes people develop seizures after such injuries. They are also at risk of bleeding inside the skull and swelling of the brain. It is also possible for the initial symptoms to be treated as signs of a concussion when they are actually caused by a more serious cerebral contusion, in which the brain is actually physically damaged.

If someone is at risk for cerebral concussion and is demonstrating tell-tale signs, she or he should be taken to a doctor for treatment. The doctor can evaluate the patient and provide treatment recommendations. The primary cerebral concussion treatment is simply rest to give the brain and body a chance to recover. However, medical imaging studies may be run to check for signs of concussion complications such as swelling so that they can be addressed promptly.


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