What is concussion (MTBI)?

Updated: Sep 24, 2018
  • Author: David T Bernhardt, MD; Chief Editor: Craig C Young, MD  more...
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Concussion has many different meanings to patients, families, and physicians. [1, 14, 15, 16] One definition of concussion is a condition in which there is a traumatically induced alteration in mental status, with or without an associated loss of consciousness (LOC). [1] A broader definition for concussion is a traumatically induced physiologic disruption in brain function that is manifested by LOC, memory loss, alteration of mental state or personality, or focal neurologic deficits. [1] Concussions usually result in relatively temporary impairment of neurologic function. [8, 16, 17]

Concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is common among most contact and collision sports participants. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] For many physicians, even those who specialize in MTBI, this area is confusing due to the paucity of scientific evidence to support much of the clinical decision making that is faced in the office. [4, 9, 14, 15, 18] The inconsiderable amount of good scientific research in the area of MTBI is due to problems with ambiguous definitions of concussion, inconsistent criteria when selecting patients to study, variability of injury mechanisms and locations, and differing means of measuring cognitive function. [19, 20] The purpose of this article is to review the epidemiology and diagnosis (but not necessarily the classification) of MTBI, as well as the role of imaging studies, issues regarding return to play, and complications surrounding MTBI.

For patient education information, see the Back, Ribs, Neck, and Head Center, Brain and Nervous System, and Dementia Center, as well as Concussion, Head Injury, and Dementia in Head Injury.

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