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Recovering from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

How on earth can there be such a thing as Mild Traumatic Brain Injury? Surely, that is the very definition of an oxymoron. Yet millions of people suffer one daily, and women are particularly at risk. You probably have experience with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, and may have even had one yourself. This is because we are also talking about concussion.

Concussions are probably the most common form of mild traumatic brain injury. The ‘mild’ comes from a medical scale which categorises injuries from ‘very severe’ to ‘mild’. A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by a head injury. Hence, mild TBI. Still with me?

One of the many things I had to learn while recovering from a concussion is how misunderstood they are.

Myth one: Only someone who has been knocked out has a concussion

This is not true. Someone can have a concussion without losing consciousness.

My brain injury happened during a regular weekend football match. It was a bright and sunny Sunday, a perfect afternoon for football. I was playing centre-back and jumping for a header when the striker leapt into me in a late tackle. We were both airborne when her shoulder smashed into my face. I didn’t lose consciousness at all. In fact, we assumed I only had a blood nose, so I played out the game.

Myth two: Concussions are obvious immediately

The symptoms of concussion might be obvious straight away. However, they usually take several hours or even days to develop. It wasn’t until 36 hours after my injury, on the Tuesday morning, that I woke up with a painful headache, dizziness, and fatigue.

Myth three: Concussion diagnosis & recovery is simple

The symptoms of concussion can often mask, or be mistaken for, a more serious brain injury. The first A&E I went to sent me home with instructions to rest for a week. Three weeks later, I was still off work.

At the second A&E, the new diagnosis was ‘Post Concussion Syndrome’. This is a syndrome whereby the symptoms of concussion hang around for anywhere up to, or over, a year. This was disheartening. I was still unable to work, and as the weeks went by I felt lost and abandoned.

Concussion in sport

There is growing concern over concussion and brain injuries in sport. While brain injuries are usually associated with American Football, there is good evidence of brain injury occurring in other contact sports. Medical research has also shown that, while continuous impacts have an accumulative effect on the brain, a single impact can still have a dramatic effect.

Enjoying sport safely

If you or your loved ones are playing a contact sport, great!

I enjoyed football for years, and have some fantastic memories from being part of a team. The point of this article is not to scaremonger. But we need to be aware of the possible injuries from games which we love.

Take a moment to check if there is a concussion protocol at your club or school.

  • What are the procedures if someone suffers a knock to the head?
  • Do the trainers and other key personnel know what these procedures are?
  • Are the procedures applied universally, or do they differ across age groups?

Enjoy your sport but be aware of concussion and brain injury

There are other forms of brain injury.

As I noted above, concussion is just the most common form of mild traumatic brain injury. At no point following my injury was I ever hospitalised. Because my injuries were initially diagnosed as concussion, it took 10 months to be seen by a specialised brain clinic.

During this time, I was on a treadmill of being signed off work, trying again, collapsing and returning to sick leave. My long term career goals had vanished, as did my ability to do daily tasks. Relationships withered, and my marriage suffered. In the end, it took over a year, and numerous scans, to find the bleed in the back of my brain.

This marked the true start of my recovery, when I could access clinics, medical therapies and expertise. Thanks to family, friends, and medical professionals, I began to rebuild my life.

Fifteen months after my injury, I finally returned to work. At first, I could only manage four hours a week at first. Slowly, I built that up to 3 days a week. A return to the full-time career which I’d had before the injury was not possible.

A change of plan

By that time, several years after the injury, I still experienced dizziness, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms affected my life dramatically. But my recovery also led to the discovery of a love for writing.

I found that writing could be a powerful therapeutic tool following injury and trauma. Now, I have switched careers and use my writing to raise awareness of brain injury.

Living with mild brain injury

My first book came out this year. It is a memoir of my injury and recovery. The aim is to raise awareness of the impact which a mild traumatic brain injury can have. It is a very personal account, which includes:

  • descriptions of hidden symptoms of concussion and post-concussion syndrome,
  • pitfalls in diagnosis,
  • the uneven progress of recovery,
  • and the effect of the varied reactions which others have to a brain injury.

This was a difficult book to write, and I was thrilled when a Clinical Psychologist in Neurorehabilitation endorsed my story as:

“Incredibly vivid…this book will be of great benefit to professionals, survivors, and their families alike.”

Pauline’s book is Living with Mild Brain Injury The Difficulties of Diagnosis and Recovery from Post-Concussion Syndrome

‘Kate on Thin Ice’ readers may use the code LBI20 to receive a 20% discount when purchasing directly from the Routledge website.

Or find out more about Pauline at https://pigpen.page/

Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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