WINFIELD, W.Va. -- It may be a headache, nausea, trouble concentrating or increased moodiness. It could be a student who falls asleep in class or an athlete who can't remember how to run a play.
The symptoms and signs of a concussion are as varied as the myths surrounding them, and according to Dr. Tony Erwin, being able to accurately diagnose and treat a concussion can be the difference between life and death.
That's why Erwin, a doctor of chiropractic medicine and the owner of the Putnam Chiropractic Center, volunteered to serve as team physician for Hurricane High School back in 2005. It's also why he hopes to work with the county's board of education and its middle and high school coaches to spread information about how concussions can be identified and treated.
"We can't catch them all, as physicians or trainers, so it has to be a team effort," he said. "We've had kids come up to us on the sidelines and say, 'Hey, go check Billy out. He's talking gibberish,' or 'he's not himself.' We go to check him out -- nobody saw it -- and sure enough, we have to pull a kid out of the game."
Concussions are classified as a mild traumatic brain injury, caused when the head is jolted violently, causing the brain to collide with the skull, Erwin said. The impact can cause a lack of blood flow and a loss of glucose for brain cells, resulting in what Erwin calls an "energy crisis" in the brain.
"I describe it as like shaking an egg. Even though the shell stays intact, the yolk gets bounced around inside," he said.
According to Erwin, false ideas about concussions -- such as the person must lose consciousness or that they have to hit their head -- as well as improper treatment and accommodations for sufferers can lead to longer recovery time and other issues.
One major factor in treating concussions is avoiding Second Impact Syndrome, Erwin said. SIS may occur when someone suffers a second concussion before fully recovering from the first, and although it is rare, it can lead to rapid brain swelling and death.