Physiology of a Concussion

By Jon Stiffler PTA/Sports Center Manager

Concussion Physiology

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is due to impact or something hitting the head.  It can also occur due to another injury that shakes the brain inside the skull. The brain has a layer of spinal fluid around it to aid with movement.  The skull houses the brain and its primary role is for protection. At times, this is not enough protection for the brain when it is shaken violently.  This causes the brain to hit the hard skull. The brain then bounces off one side of the skull and impacts the opposite side.

With this action, the brain is impacted on two different sides causing further damage. The force of the brain hitting the skull produces contusions (bruises) in the brain. Nerve cells inside the head are damaged and no longer able to send signals to other regions of the brain or throughout the body. The body uses cerebral blood flow found in the spinal column to transport nutrients and energy to the brain. A concussion slows cerebral blood flow, making it difficult for the brain to repair injured areas and return to a stable state without sufficient blood supply. These changes temporarily alter the autonomic nervous system and circadian rhythm (sleep cycle).

Concussion Symptoms

Once a concussion occurs, the person may experience a wide range of symptoms.  They are classified into 4 categories: physical, cognitive, emotional and sleep-related. Other symptoms may include the following:

Concussion Graphic


  • Headaches and problems with concentration.
  • Decreased balance and coordination.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Hindered sleeping patterns.
  • Loss of memory.

Dr. Michael Yorio

Dr. Michael Yorio is the physician for the JOI Concussion Management Program.  If you think you have a concussion, please call 904-391-6955 for an appointment with Dr. Yorio.

Related Articles: Concussion and Physical Therapy can help with a Concussion.

If you enjoyed this article about the physiology of a concussion, you can read more in this article about the JOI Concussion Center. 

To schedule with Dr. Yorio for a concussion, please call 904-391-6955. 

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