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Although most people think of concussions as injuries that happen during sporting events, a concussion can happen anywhere, at any time. A fall can cause as much damage to the brain as a hard hit in football. Some of the more common non-sport causes of concussion include:
One of the biggest differences between concussions sustained in sports versus non-sports contexts is that athletes can usually depend on coaches, athletic directors, and trainers to recognize the signs of concussion. That’s not necessarily true at home, in the workplace, or on the street (whether as a pedestrian or driver).
More than 8 million people a year go to the emergency room after a fall at home. Many of these individuals are elderly, but anyone can fall — including toddlers falling down unguarded staircases or out unprotected windows, homeowners falling from a ladder or off a roof, or anyone at all tripping over a loose rug or being knocked over by an overenthusiastic pet. People have sustained concussions or more serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) by stumbling over a curb or doing any one of a thousand everyday activities that can suddenly end in a fall. Someone who is alone at the time of a fall, or who is not with anyone who recognizes the signs of a concussion or TBI, may not seek needed medical attention in situations when it might be necessary given the risk of internal brain bleeds/
When a worker is injured on the job, his or her co-workers may not recognize the signs of concussion or TBI. Even when workers are using safety equipment, certain industries are by definition dangerous, and everyday situations pose significant risks for concussion and TBI. Workplace injuries are all too common at construction sites, where typical injuries include falling from scaffolding, getting hit on the head, and slipping.
Car accidents can happen at any time, to even the best of drivers, in this age of many distractions (cell phones, text messages, and navigation systems). One of the most common types of accidents — the rear-end bump — is well known for causing whiplash, but that back-and-forth motion is also a culprit in many concussions. A driver who experiences headaches after an accident may suspect whiplash, but it could be a concussion instead of (or in addition to) whiplash. A pedestrian hit by a car or a motorcyclist thrown from his or her bike may also suffer a concussion, but it may be overlooked in the presence of more obvious injuries.
Unfortunately, some concussions are the result of deliberate assault. Whether the assault is a random act of violence, an instance of domestic abuse, or even bullying, the signs of a concussion may be missed amid the emotional trauma associated with it.
The Bottom Line: Concussion and traumatic brain injury are invisible injuries; everyone should know the symptoms of a TBI and know when to seek treatment.