Over the past few months we’ve been exploring Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE. Today we thought we’d back it up and start where these conditions often begin, concussion.  

The Concussion and CTE Relationship 

Medical researchers have definitively concluded that multiple concussions can lead to CTE.  To recap, CTE is a degenerative condition that causes thinking, memory and personality changes. Symptoms often do not appear for years or decades after brain injuries occur and generally can only be revealed by autopsy. 

What is a Concussion? 

A concussion is the most common and least serious type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when a hit to the head shakes the brain inside the skull. The brain is comprised of soft tissue that is cushioned by spinal fluid, all encased in the protective shell of the skill. When you sustain a concussion, usually by a blow to the head, whether from falling, sport, or another type of injury, the impact can jolt your brain. Sometimes it literally causes your brain to move around in your skull. When the brain abruptly comes into contact with the skill it can cause bruising, damage to the blood vessels and injury to the nerves.  


Diagnosing a concussion can be tricky, as there usually isn’t a visible injury on the head and you can’t actually “see” a concussion. Further complicating this process is the fact that signs may not appear for a day to a week after the injury. The common physical, mental and emotional symptoms a person may experience following a concussion are: 

  • confusion or feeling dazed 
  • clumsiness 
  • slurred speech 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • headache 
  • balance problems or dizziness 
  • blurred vision 
  • sensitivity to light 
  • sensitivity to noise 
  • sluggishness 
  • ringing in ears 
  • behavior or personality changes 
  • concentration difficulties 
  • memory loss 

If a concussion is suspected, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor for a definitive diagnosis.  

Different Types of Concussion 

Concussions are graded on a scale from 1-3, from mild to severe. The severity is dependent upon factors such as loss of consciousness, amnesia and loss of equilibrium. 

MILD – Grade 1: In a grade 1 concussion, symptoms last for less than 15 minutes. There is no loss of consciousness. 

MODERATE – Grade 2: With a grade 2 concussion, there is no loss of consciousness but symptoms last longer than 15 minutes. 

SEVERE – Grade 3: In a grade 3 concussion, the person loses consciousness, sometimes just for a few seconds. 

Healing for Post-Concussion 

When you sprain your ankle, you put your leg up and rest. The same goes for a head injury. You need to rest your brain after a concussion. Ensure that you get plenty of rest and abstain from sports or major physical until you receive clearance from your doctor.  

Risk of Repeated Injury 

When you’ve suffered a concussion, you are at greater risk at getting another one if you don’t allow your brain a proper amount of time to heal. Repeated concussions without proper time between to heal properly could lead to lasting brain damage, known as CTE, the condition that kills brain cells. To read about CTE in-depth, check out our blog Exploring Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Concussion Statistics 

  • Between 1.7 and 3 million sports- and recreation-related concussions happen each year.
  • In the last 10 years, emergency room visits for concussions in kids ages 8 to 13 years old have doubled, while concussions among teens ages 14 to 19 have increased 200 percent.
  • 5 of 10 concussions go unreported or undetected.
  • 2 in 10 high-school athletes who play contact sports will suffer a concussion this year.
  • Cumulative concussions can increase the likelihood of permanent neurologic disability by 39 percent
  • High school football accounts for 47 percent of all reported sports concussions. Girls’ soccer sees the second-most concussions of all high school sports. Girls’ basketball sees the third most.

If you would like to learn more about concussions and the pathologist who first identified CTE, check out the New York Times Bestseller Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Statistics via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program 

Other information obtained from WebMD.  


Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
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