What is a Concussion?

Everyone knows what a concussion is but nobody knows whats
actually going on. I’ll break down whats going on in the brain metabolically post concussion.

Biomechanical Trauma Post Concussion

  • Glutamate (an excitatory amino acid) binds with
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)
  • This causes depolarization of the neuron
  • This depolarization then causes potassium to leave the cell in high volume
  • As potassium leaves, this allows calcium to enter
  • Calcium in the neuron impairs neuroconnectivity
This graph depicts the the flow of potassium out and calcium in

Sodium-Potassium Pump Issues

  • This rapid flow of calcium and potassium taxes the sodium-potassium pump greatly
  • This overworks the pump leading to a larger need for ATP as ATP is now in a deficit
  • This triggers a dramatic increase in glucose metabolism. This increase in metabolism occurs in a setting where there is decreased cerebral blood flow

Oxidative Stress

  • Now we have oxidative stress that further complicates the issue as glucose is being consumed at an advanced rate
  • The net negative of glucose in the system triggers an energy crisis

Magnesium Deficiency

  • The energy crisis is what causes the increase in vulnerability to the head post concussion. In addition to glucose depletion, magnesium is depleted from the system for 4 days
  • Magnesium improves motor function so you can see how the absence leads to textbook
  • concussion symptoms (balance and coordination issues, loss of fine skills acutely)
  • Low levels of magnesium unblock NMDA which then causes a greater influx of calcium (not good)
  • It takes 2 days for calcium levels to peak and 4 days to return to normal


  • Neurons have the ability to heal themselves during this 4 day period assuming there is no additional trauma. This is why protection from additional trauma is key for head injuries early on
  • A 2nd traumatic brain injury that occurs before the first one has healed can lead to permanent neuron death (real bad). This is a huge concern for athletes

If you can take away one thing from this let it be the following:

A concussion is a metabolic condition of the brain that needs 4 days minimally to properly heal from

To learn more about the correlation between a concussion and CTE/Alzheimer’s Disease, click here