Most people who've ever played sports are familiar with the telltale signs of a Concussion-- dilated pupils, headaches, dizziness, temporary loss of consciousness, and other symptoms. While concussions (particularly repeat concussions) can be devastating for the brain, not much thought gets spared for the rest of the body. In truth, the forces that cause a concussion can wreak havoc all over the body.
A concussion occurs when there's trauma to the Skull. This is usually caused by falling down or being struck in the head by an object. Unfortunately, the brain and skull aren't the only things that have the potential to get damaged here. All of the joints that support the skull can sustain some pretty serious hits, too. Special care should be taken for the delicate vertebrae in the Neck and spine. They support the skull, so any jarring motion has the potential to cause an Injury that may go unnoticed in the wake of a concussion. Since the mobility and positioning of the cervical and spinal vertebrae have an enormous impact on the alignment of the rest of the body, an injury to the neck or spine can throw off movement in the shoulders, hips, and knees as these joints attempt to compensate. Compensation doesn't generally result in joint pain or injury right away, but can result in increased long-term wear and tear.
Sometimes, irritated nerves in the neck or spine trigger 'referred pain'. This type of pain shows up in an area where the injury itself didn't occur. For example, an injury to cranial nerve XI (also called the 'accessory nerve') in the neck can manifest as pain and weakness in the back or shoulder areas. Injuries to the lower back can cause pain down one or both legs and difficulty with walking or standing. Referred pain can be difficult to pinpoint, even more difficult to alleviate, and can result in chronic pain and debilitating muscle weakness if left untreated.
In the aftermath of a concussion, keeping an eye out for signs of a traumatic brain injury or cerebral hemorrhage is of paramount importance. Given the kind of damage that can strike the joints of the neck and spine, it's also essential to keep an eye out for signs of injury in these areas. Soreness, tingling, burning, and weakness should all be brought to a doctor's attention promptly to help prevent long-term damage.