Lady Gaga suffered a concussion on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand, when during a concert, the singer was accidentally hit on the head with a pole by one of her backup dancers.
“I want to apologize. I did hit my head and I think I may have a concussion, but don’t you worry I will finish this show,” she told the crowd before performing another 16 songs.
Tara Savelo, the singer’s makeup artist, tweeted about the incident later on the same day, saying, “Gaga has a concussion but she is going to be okay. She wants u to know she loves u. I’m taking care of her. Can’t believe she finished the show.”
A concussion is classified by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as a form of traumatic brain injury that interrupts the brain’s normal function, resulting in a headache, unconsciousness, or altered level of alertness.
During the show, witnesses report seeing Lady Gaga stumble after being hit, but being able to sing the remainder of her songs without apparent issue.
People sustaining concussions are often not as lucid, experiencing symptoms such as:
- Altered level of consciousness (drowsy, un-alert)
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Spatial feeling of “lost time”
- Seeing flashing lights
Emergency care is often sought for symptoms like:
- Trouble walking
- Unusual eye movements
- Unequal pupil appearance
- Persistent vomiting
- Persistent confusion
While the severity of Lady Gaga’s injury has not yet been made public, experts agree concussions can affect each individual differently, though the reason behind why is little understood.
“In fact, most researchers have assumed that all people with concussions have abnormalities in the same brain regions,” said to Science Daily Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Einstein and medical director of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services at Montefiore. “But that doesn’t make sense, since it is more likely that different areas would be affected in each person because of differences in anatomy, vulnerability to injury and mechanism of injury.”
Not all symptoms of concussions are made obvious immediately.
Dr. Lipton recently headed up a study that utilizes a newly developed MRI technique to examine microstructural abnormalities across the entire brain. The new tool is called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and it measures the diffusion of water into white matter.
Using this method, Lipton and his team were able to detect levels of fractional anisotropy (FA), an indicator of a tissue’s structural integrity. Levels of low FA, indicative of damaged areas in the brain, were discovered in concussion patients, yet around those low areas were abnormally high areas of FA.
“We found widespread high FA at every time point, all the way out to six months and even in patients more than one year out from their injury.” said Dr. Lipton. “We suspect that high FA represents a response to the injury. In other words, the brain may be trying to compensate for the injury by developing and enhancing other neural connections. This is a new and unexpected finding.”
Current methods of diagnosing concussions rely on symptoms and nature of the accident, without any real indication of just how damaged the brain is. Imaging such as traditional MRIs CT scans, and EEGs can alert physicians to bruising or bleeding, but can’t provide a finite spectrum of damage. It is Dr. Lipton’s hope that DTI may soon change that.
Performing an entire concert, which requires strenuous physical activity, might not be a good idea even when symptoms seem initially mild.
In order to avoid long term damage after a concussion, most patients are asked to stop strenuous activities immediately. Other advice includes:
- Seeking immediate medical treatment regardless of suspected severity
- Eat a light diet for the next few days
- Do not consume alcohol or take illicit drugs
- If taking medication without first consulting a doctor, only take Tylenol; never take a blood-thinning medication like Advil, aspirin, or naproxen
- Have someone else present for up to 24 hours. If the injured person sleeps, they should be woken up every 2-3 hours and asked a simple question to gage response time and accuracy.
Healing after a concussion can take days, months, or even longer. Issues such as dizziness, confusion, and irritability may persist until the final stages of healing.
“That’s [taking a week off] really important because very often we see patients with post-concussion syndrome months after their concussion,” said Rosemarie Moser, director of the Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey and lead author of the study.
No word if Lady Gaga has been asked to follow these recommendations.
While overall rest is the key component to recovering from a concussion, treatment also includes:
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Using ice on any swollen areas of the head or neck
- Using pain medication only as directed
- Stopping activity if symptoms worsen or come back
- Not operating heavy machinery
- Not participating in activities which may result in another blow to the head
For serious concussions where there is bleeding inside the skull, surgical intervention and hospitalization is sometimes required.