Seeing Stars. Shook up on the play. Having your clock cleaned.
Getting your bell rung. Concussion. Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.
We have heard all of these phrases used to describe what happens to someone when they suffer a blow to the head. There has been recent attention given to head injuries in the context of sports teams – particularly the NFL. This new attention on concussions and their impact on players is long overdue.
When we call concussions what they really are – Mild Traumatic Brain Injury – they sound far more serious than the light-hearted phrases so commonly used to describe them. The change in what we call them is more than a matter of semantics. It gives weight and understanding to the serious injury that is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI).
However, the change to calling concussions MTBI’s has led some to infer that because we are talking about something that is ‘mild’ it isn’t a serious injury. Wrong.
“Mild” in this case does not mean unimportant. When we are talking about brain injuries, the “mild” part refers to the fact that there isn’t an anatomic injury to the brain (direct damage to the tissues of the brain or surrounding it). We have the ability, through CT scans or MRI’s to see anatomic injury to the brain. So someone who has a brain bleed has a traumatic brain injury. Someone who is caused to lose consciousness due to a blow to the head without a visible brain injury has a ‘mild’ traumatic brain injury.
The use of the term ‘mild’ is unfortunate, as it serves to cloak the very significant symptoms of people who suffer from an MTBI in a phrase we more commonly use to refer to watery salsa or tepid chicken wings. There is nothing ‘mild’ about the repercussions of a MTBI on the people who suffer them. An MTBI can cause devastating symptoms (which another blog post will address more fully), that can affect every aspect of a person’s life.