Navigating Concussion: What Happens Inside Your Brain?

Dr. Lowell Greib MSc ND CISSN

Concussions, often resulting from bumps or hits, can have more going on inside your head than meets the eye. In this discussion, let’s uncover the basics of what happens in your brain during a concussion and why understanding it matters for your recovery.

Understanding the Basics:

A concussion occurs when your brain gets a sudden shake or blow, causing it to move around in your skull. This can lead to stretching and damage to nerve fibers, which can affect how your brain functions. The aftermath brings about a series of events, including something called neuroinflammation.

The Role of Neuroinflammation:

Think of neuroinflammation as your brain’s protective response to injury. When your brain senses damage, it activates tiny defenders called microglia. These defenders release signals (like cytokines) to fix the damage, but sometimes, this response can get a bit too enthusiastic.

The Inflammatory Process:

**Cytokines on the Scene**

Microglia release signaling molecules, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and others, to call for help. This brings immune cells to the damaged area, creating an inflammatory environment.

**Leaky Brain Barrier**

The inflammation can make your brain’s protective barrier (the blood-brain barrier) a bit leaky. This allows substances to enter your brain that shouldn’t be there, making things a bit more complicated.

**Oxidative Stress**

Inflammation can also lead to the production of harmful molecules (reactive oxygen species),causing oxidative stress that can damage cells.

**Excitotoxicity Trouble**

The inflammatory response can mess with the balance of neurotransmitters, leading to something called excitotoxicity. This can cause more damage to your brain cells.

What It Means for You:

Understanding what’s happening inside your brain after a concussion is vital for your recovery journey. While your brain’s protective response is natural, it can sometimes overreact, potentially causing more issues. Researchers are looking into ways to calm down this response, helping your brain heal without unnecessary complications.

Moving Forward:

As we learn more about how concussions affect the brain, there’s hope for better ways to manage and recover. So, whether you’ve experienced a concussion or want to stay informed, knowing what’s going on inside your head is a crucial step toward a healthier, more resilient future. Contact The SportLab to speak to one of our skilled clinicians if you need more questions answered!

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