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Concussion: Dealing with the challenge


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By Oluwole Olusanya


Here is where my concussion story begins. On weekends, my routine activities include cleaning the house amongst other domestic chores, spending some time with a childhood friend and making sure I stay updated on happenings around the world by watching my favourite news channel, reading books and articles on the internet, listening to my beloved rap artistes and catching up with the latest Hollywood movies.

The movie – Concussion inspired me to a large extent, I was personally elevated to learn that there are patriotic Nigerians who are doing notable things in every corner of the world and Nigeria is blessed with great and gigantic individuals who defy odds to achieve positive results in their chosen professions.

Concussion is a 2015 American biographical sports drama film directed and written by Peter Landesman. It was produced by Ridley Scott, Giannina Scott, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman, and Elizabeth Cantillon. The story was based on the exposé “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, published in 2009 by GQ magazine. Set in 2002, the film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born American forensic pathologist who fights against the National Football League (NFL) trying to suppress his research on the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) brain degeneration suffered by professional football players. It also stars Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks. Columbia Pictures released the film on December 25th, 2015. The film grossed US$48 million on its US$35 million budget.

In 2002, former Pittsburgh Steelers centre Mike Webster is found dead in his pickup truck, after years of self-mutilation and homelessness. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner’s office, handles Webster’s autopsy. He wonders how a man, otherwise healthy, and fairly young, could have degenerated so quickly, and makes it a point to figure out why he died of a heart attack at 50. Omalu closely examines microscope slides of Webster’s brain and discovers that he had severe brain damage. He ultimately determines that Webster died as a result of the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head, a disorder he later calls the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). With the help of former Steelers team doctor Julian Bailes, fellow neurologist Steven T. DeKosky and county coroner Cyril Wecht, Omalu publishes a paper on his findings, which is initially dismissed by the NFL. (Source: – Concussion)

Definition & Causes

Concussion is typically defined as a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function. It is also known as minor Head Trauma or mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and it is the most common type of traumatic brain injury.

The Human brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by the cerebrospinal fluid and protected by our hard skull. The fluid around the brain acts like a cushion that keeps it from banging into the skull but if our head or body is hit hard; the brain can crash into the skull and be injured.

In consequence, there are many ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing or snowboarding to mention a few.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms include a variety of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms which may not be recognized if subtle. A variety of signs accompany concussion including headache, feeling in a fog and emotional changeability. Physical signs (such as loss of consciousness or amnesia), behavioural changes (such as irritability), cognitive impairment (such as slowed reaction times) or sleep disturbances. Fewer than 10% of sports-related concussions among children are associated with loss of consciousness. Although, there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no other visible signs of a brain injury.

According to information from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s official website, some response to concussion can also be influenced by genetics.  People who have a history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in their family can be more at risk for having a worse response after a concussion.  This is because some people have proteins (Tau) in the brain that already place them at risk of memory problems, which can be aggravated by concussion.  This results in more cognitive difficulties with memory, concentration and motivation after experiencing a concussion.

Prevention & Treatment Tips

The best way to prevent concussion is to ensure the overall orientation of participants on the threats of concussion and guarantee that all safety measures are put in place before resuming sporting and physical activities that are risky. Use any recommended safety equipment, ensure all coaches are fully trained in concussion avoidance, identification and treatment, and know your personal concussion history.

Most importantly, stop participating in sports or leisure activities if there is any indication of potential injury to the head or neck, as total avoidance is evidently the most potent prevention tip and seek medical attention when necessary.

Deductively, the best treatment for symptoms of concussion involves an assessment of vestibular function by a physical therapist.  A comprehensive vestibular evaluation should include examination of balance activities that involve the vestibular, vision and proprioceptive systems, which reveals how the brain interprets movement of the body and head relative to space and the visual surround.  A cervical examination determines if neck sprain or dizziness from the neck is contributing to symptoms and perpetuating headaches.  Based on examination findings, customized exercises and recommendations for participating in or modifying school, work and home activities expedites recovery. (Source:


Lastly, I believe that the information on concussion discussed above is basically to educate and equip us on the potential risks and hazards of a condition we constantly overlook. Concussion is obviously relatively under-reported and publicized but the extents of its damages are in alarming proportions.

Conclusively, I implore everyone reading this short but prodigious piece to ensure that we educate someone else on Concussion, its causes, symptoms and prevention tips.


Olusanya, Oluwole Sheriff is a Relationship Officer at Sterling Bank Plc, Lagos
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Prof Isaac Adewole

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