The Chemistry of a Concussion


A concussion occurs in the brain when G-force causes a rotational movement in the midbrain and diencephalon. The layers of the membranes that protect the brain from harmful molecules rip and fray. This creates of build up of free radicals, an influx of calcium and an efflux of potassium. Chemistry is vital in the reactions and elements that are present during the processes of a concussion. I chose concussions because they are a huge deal in today’s sports and many of my friends have gotten concussions. My life is affected by concussions because they can happen at any moment and I need to always be careful.

      • Composition of ...Calcium: Ca
      • Potassium: K
      • Glutamate: C5H9NO4
      • Free radicals
      • Glucose: C6H12O6

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


    • Ca
    • Alkaline earth metal
    • It was discovered in a pure form in 1808 by English chemist Humphry Davy
    • Excess calcium gums up the mitochondria which makes the cells need extra energy to reclaim the potassium they lost
      • can lead to cell death
    • Intra-axonal calcium flux disrupts neurofilaments and microtubules


  • C5H9NO4
  • It is an amino acid that is used in biosynthesis of proteins
  • It is a key component in cellular metabolic processes
  • Identified in the year 1866 by German chemist Karl Ritthausen
  • most abundant neurotransmitter
    • released in excessive amounts
    • Creates an imbalance of potassium and calcium ions
  • breaks dietary proteins into amino acids

Chemistry's Role

    • A hard blow to the brain or head can cause a concussion ( G-force )
    • First once the force cause rips and frays in the layers of membranes , free radicals build up in the brain causing oxidative stress
      • oxidative stress is caused by the production of free radicals damaging, cells proteins, lipids, and DNA
      • the brain responses by sending specialized immune cells from the blood to patch the rips and fray
    • Also the brain fires neurotransmitters such as glutamate which binds to NMDA , leading to efflux of potassium and an influx of calcium, leading to...
      • The sodium-potassium pump works overtime to try and restore the neuronal potential membrane and makeup for lost K
        • Increases ATP, triggering increase in glucose metabolism
      • the influx of calcium disrupts neurofilaments and microtubules, impairs neural connectivity and impair mitochondrial oxidative metabolism
        • impairing posttraumatic neural connectivity
        • it gums up the mitochondria which makes the cells need extra energy to reclaim the K they lost
        • enough calcium can override the cells to not get rid of it and kill it producing literal holes in the brain
    • The of the stuff that is happening in the brain calls for extra energy and is a big factor as to why there is a deregulation of energy use
  • Also, scientists do not exactly know what happens at a molecular level

Background Research

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a violent blow to the brain. It is a rotational movement of the brain. Everything going on in the brain can cause dizziness, vomiting, nausea and drowsiness. One to Two weeks is the average recovery for a concussion. The injury affects the reticular activating system located in the midbrain and diencephalon by disrupting the normal cellular activities in this area. Some signs of a concussion are headaches, changes in emotions, cognitive impairment, and loss of consciousness.


Background Research

Brain ripping and fraying from the force allowing in harmful molecules in

Binding of Glutamate to NMDA

Intra-axonal calcium flux

Acute metabolic and ionic changes

brain fires all its neurotransmitters

arteries in brain constrict

excess calcium affecting mitochondria

rapid movement of the brain injuring and stretching neuronal axons

Information about glucose

Information about calcium (formula)

Information on Glutamic acid

What Oxidative Stress is and how its caused

About the Author

Pearce Kurth, 17, is a high school junior at Billings Senior High School in Montana. Pearce’s current GPA is 3.83 and he also is taking 3 honors classes at the moment. He is a part of Senior Advocates, a community service group, and Billings American Legion Baseball. He also played football for one year and basketball for two years. Pearce enjoys working hard in school, playing sports, and hanging out with his friends.