Head Case

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Head Case

Most of the little girls I knew in my childhood liked to play dress up, host tea parties, play with dolls, paint, and do other "normal" children's activities. When I was a little girl I enjoyed painting, hosting tea parties, and spent many of my weekends and school vacations competing in both national and international martial arts tournaments and exhibitions. Martial arts taught me self-discipline, self-control, and self-awareness as a child. It kept me physically fit, and made me more confident in my abilities. However, as I progressed through the ranks I spent more time training and much more time competing.

Once a practitioner reaches the level of Black Belt, all sparring matches become full contact, meaning blows to the head, neck, and below the waist are now scored as hits as opposed to fouls by sporting rules. I reached the rank of Black Belt at age eight, meaning I participated in full contact sparring matches for roughly six years. In addition to my competing as a martial artist, I was also an amateur boxer for two years- from ages 13 to 15. At the time, I didn't think about the consequences of the sport I had chosen. The daily punishment of taking one or two hard blows to the head didn't seem troublesome at the time. All competitors wore gloves in addition to protective headgear and mouthguards. In the roughly ten years in which I fought competitively I sustained several concussions, and only one in which I lost consciousness. However you may wonder, what is the clinical definition of this condition, and how are concussions diagnosed?

What is a Concussion?

When an injury to the brain is sustained, it causes the brain to bounce against the hard bone of the skull. The force of the hit against the skull might cause "tearing or twisting" of structures and blood vessels in the brain. This "tearing or twisting" deep within the brain tissue causes a breakdown in the normal flow of messages within the brain. This breakdown is the biological explanation of the concussion condition (1).

Oh No! Am I Concussed?

There are over 600,000 cases of sustained concussion in the United States alone each year. Symptoms include, loss of consciousness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, increased size of one pupil, loss of memory, severe headache, weakness in one or more extremities, or changes in behavior. These symptoms may last anywhere from a couple hours to several weeks or months, depending on the seriousness of the injury, according to most physicians (1).

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