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Home > Miscellaneous > On a Concussion
by J. Akiyama <Send E-mail to Author>

On 11. April, 1997, I suffered a minor concussion during an aikido class. At the time, I did not know exactly what the injury was, although I certainly felt its symptoms.

I posted onto the Aikido-L mailing list my symptoms, and got a bunch of wonderful replies. I have included my original article as well as some of the replies that I got below.

My concussion was minor, but quite physically uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, and it certainly affected me mentally and emotionally on the mat for a couple of months following.

This page is here to hopefully provide people with some information on a concussion.

J. Akiyama

Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 13:43:21 -0700 (PDT)
From: J. Akiyama

So last night during training, I got thrown down pretty hard a few times as uke for the instructor. During one of the throws, the instructor's elbow came in and gave me a pretty good "whack" in the forehead. Afterwards, I was feeling queasy and dizzy, my heart was racing really fast (moreso than just for taking some intense ukemi), and my mouth was feeling really, really dry.

I decided to take a few minutes off the mat for a break, and it took a few cups of water and about five minutes or so of just standing and sitting to get things feeling straight. I got back on the mat but decided not to do any more rolls or breakfalls when I felt once that I was going to throw up.

I took the rest of the class really lightly, but I noticed while I as being driven home (someone else drove us to this dojo), it was hard to keep my eyes focused and I felt some pain behind my eyes. I did not lose consciousness at any time.

So, could this be some sort of minor concussion, or do I just need to be thrown harder more often?

Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 18:47:17 -0700
From: Janet Rosen

oops. classic mild concussion. If no further symptoms don't worry. If sleepiness, headaches, vision changes occur get into ER for a CTscan--this includes if they occur in a few weeks, OK? Promise?

The "concussion" is literally the banging of the brain against the skull--in and of itself should be self-limiting. If there were any bruising or bleeding though it would lead to swelling which might not manifest for a while. Highly unlikely especially as you did not lose consciousness.

Please update us....janet

Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 01:20:36 -0400
From: Jill Green

A concussion simply means that the brain hit the skull when an impact occured. You can have bleeding in addition which is why an x-ray is a good idea and observation - don't spend the night alone if possible and have someone keep an eye on you. The doctor here suggested to one of the Penn State guys this fall to have the roomate wake him every couple of hours to prevent slipping into a coma. Now if you have just inflammation of the brain from the blow, it will subside. If a bleed occured, a clot could form and create a further problem if jarred loose. Don't take any aspirin for the next few days just in case there is the potential for a delayed bleed. Take it easy for a while in case there is a problem anmd you might shake lose a clot if there was bleeding before it can reabsorb. I think you should be able to take ibuprofen (the bleeding associated with ibuprofen is from stomach ulcers not interference so much with clotting) or a natural anti-inflammatory (possibly eat fresh dandelions in salads if available where you are)that doesn't effect clotting. You don't necessarily have to but it will help the swelling go down. Drink enough fluids to help flush your system keeping a correct osmolality to body fluids and to not retain or lose too much in the brain(water preferably- lemon in it helps absorption).

I don't often suggest going to emergency rooms, but I would've sought one in this situation just to be sure. A brain is too important to mess with. Hope you are still OK-use the info if too late to help with future events for yourself or others.

Peace. Jill

Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 10:04:12 -0400
From: Nancy Jane Moore

I had rather similar symptoms a few years ago when I was thrown hard to the mat in a kokynage and the back of my head hit the mat. I had no lasting problems from it. After I did it though, one of our instructors made a point of showing all of us how to tuck our chins toward our necks when we take back falls. I now emphasize developing this habit to the beginning students I teach, even when we're doing kokyu ho, so they don't get in the habit of letting their heads drop back toward the mat.

I don't know if this is what Jun did, but it's one possible cause.

On the injury front. It seems to me that there are more injuries in Aikido than I saw (or suffered) in karate. I had a lot of bruises in karate, but the worst injury I had was from hyperextending my elbow one too many times doing downblocks. There are probably more broken noses and ribs, etc, in karate, but more joint injuries, bad falls, etc. in Aikido.

Also, Jun---didn't you recently test for Ikkyu (I think I remember right). It seems to me a lot of people accumulate a fair number of injuries as they're getting close to Shodan level, mostly because you start to push the envelope. Seems like there's a similar problem after Nidan. I think there are just stages in training where you're a little more at risk for injury---you can't protect yourself all the time.

Besides, Saotome Sensei made the point yesterday (during the Cherry Blossom Seminar) that you can learn a lot from your injuries. I know I've learned a lot from mine, although it'd be nice if you could learn things without getting hurt!


Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 07:46:16 +0900
From: Michael Kimeda

I suppose by now we can happily agree that Jun is past the "danger point" and will survive to take ukemi again...but let me add my own bit about the dangers of a concussion.

I read recently that it is VERY important not to bang the head a SECOND time if you have had a concussion.

Unfortunately I can't remember where I read about the study, but it showed quite a few cases where people who had had concussions, and banged the head before the first concussion healed died. Yup died.

Apparently the brain is very sensitive and weak after the first banging, and simply can not handle being hit twice in the same spot.

People who were involved with the study were trying to force sporting groups to impose a minimum time off (at least a week) for people who had sustained concussions. I think this was mostly for college, and high school sports.

Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 16:20:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: J. Akiyama

Michael Kimeda wrote:

I read recently that it is VERY important not to bang the head a SECOND time if you have had a concussion.

I went and did a bit of searching on some websites over the weekend, and if I remember correctly from my reading, there's a chance that a clot in the brain can be jarred loose from a second concussion or something to that effect.

Let's see... Ah, here's some information.

"The biggest worry in returning an athlete to play is second-impact syndrome, a rapid, fatal brain swelling that may occur if a person suffers another head impact--even a minor one--before the symptoms of a previous concussion have fully cleared. Although it is rare, the deaths of several boxers, football players, and hockey players have been ascribed to second impact syndrome since it first was widely publicized in 1984 (6)."
-- from http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/oct_96/roos2.htm

Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 20:03:29 EDT
From: Carol M. Shifflett


I have an extensive article pulled from a magazine, possibly Sports Illustrated.

Title: "Halt the Head-Hunting" by Peter King. No date, but mentions that "last month, wide receiver Don Beebe of the buffalo Bills was nearly berheaded while going across the middle for a pass in a game against the Jets." Perhaps a Bills fan can identify -- or I'll get to the library and extract the reference. Discusses the effects of helmet banging.

Followed by a grim article on the actual effects on the persons inside those helmets: "The Worst Case -- Doctors warn that repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain dysfunction" by Michael Farber. Sad tale of Al Toon/postconcussion syndrome and life with a brain cloud. Death of high-school athlete Adrian Guitterez who played with a two-week old concussion and died on the field.

Pages 27-53 of whatever magazine this was -- includes useful graphic "anatomy of a concussion" iillustrating what actually happens in a concussion.

I trust that all is well with Jun's injuries! -- but it's always valuable to be aware of the possibilities.

CM Shifflett

Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 13:43:56 -0700 (PDT)
From: J. Akiyama

Janet wrote:

Hi. Can tell by your postings that your cognition is unimpaired! and assume you are feeling better--good idea to rest 'til the workshop.

Thanks! My cognitive functioning remains unencumbered and has not displayed any form of dissonance nor aberrations as of yet.

Or something like that.

Janet wrote:

Wanted to briefly tell you about post-concussion syndrome; you may ot have it but this is a just-in-case, don't be alarmed message: fter even a very minor head trauma, some people experience motional/mood upheaval for a week or two: could be sadness or anger hat seems to come from nowhere or be to an inappropriate degree, or a lower than usual threshold for frustration. Also a minor frontal eadache.

Actually, I _have_ been feeling somewhat irritable this week. (Quicker to reply in a more aggressive tone through e-mail, for instance.) However, as soon as I felt this change, I pretty much ascribed it to my concussion, so it's interesting to see it in action.

Overall, I'm feeling a lot better. I have been experiencing some light headaches for the last few days, but I've always been prone to headaches all through my life. I did have a pain behind my eyes last night, but I think this may be attributable to my sitting in front of the computer for so long and playing on-line Boggle for a whee bit too long. There also might be some psychosomatic symptoms from all of the "could happen" stuff that I've read, of course.

Thank you for your concern. I really appreciate it!

Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 09:20:48 -0700 (PDT)
From: J. Akiyama

Just to follow up to my concussion thread, I thought I'd provide people with how I've been feeling for the past several days.

All in all, I feel fine. I have not lost any sleep nor appetite (for food, or otherwise), and I have not experienced any kind of dizziness at all. And, no, I haven't slipped into any comas that I know about.

It seems I have, however, been going through what Janet described as part of post-concussion syndrome; I've been feeling somewhat more easily irritable this week than most. (It's been interesting, since I noticed this before Janet e-mailed me with the chance I may experience this. I thought it was pretty neat, actually.)

I have been having some other symptoms, although I'm hoping they're more psychosomatic than anything else. I sometimes have a low-grade headache in the back of my head as the day wears on. In addition, after sitting in front of my monitor for hours on end, I'm tending to have much tired (and sometimed pained) eyes at the end of the day. This may be due to the fact that I'm now playing IRC Boggle too many times, but I'm now making sure to let my eyes focus on "far away objects" (like trees outside) whenever I can.

I'm taking it very easy on the aikido front right now, so as to keep my head from rattling too much; I'm planning on attending Richard Moon's seminar in two weekends, so I'm trying to remain healthy for that.

Unfortunately, I did not gain any "supernatural" powers due to the concussion; I can't read minds, I can't play the piano like Mozart, I still can't juggle five balls, I haven't come up with the next theory of relativity or Pulitzer-prize winning novel, nor do I suddenly understand what "ki" is. Alas. Maybe next time I have a concussion, though...

Thanks, everyone, for your concern!

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