Concussion has been in the news more and more in the last few years. We usually think of it in relation to athletes, football players. There is a growing realization of concussion in many populations, not just athletes. Research has increased in the area of concussion over the past 15 to 20 years. There is still so much unknown about concussion regarding susceptibility, recovery and the lasting effects of a concussion.
POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME: One phrase that is heard regarding concussion is post-concussion syndrome. This is when the initial concussion symptoms continue, typically headaches and dizziness, for an extended period. Several weeks for some people, for others, symptoms can go on for much longer. Headaches are the most common symptom of post-concussion syndrome, occurring within the first seven days of the initial injury. The development of post-concussion syndrome can be completely unrelated to how serious the initial injury is. In other words, the injury may seem minor, say falling in your yard and having your head hit the ground, or striking your head hard on a door or a cabinet, and a few days later having continual headaches.
Some researchers believe this is a result of a disturbance in the brain caused by the impact which caused the injury. Other researchers feel the post-concussion syndrome has a psychological component resulting from the injury. The reason that most common symptoms – headaches, dizziness, and sleep disturbances are like those of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychological diagnoses. The feeling is that a history of depression, anxiety, poor social supports and other factors are more common with the group of people who develop post-concussion syndrome as opposed to those who do not. Further research is needed for more conclusive information.
MEMORY LOSS: We are not sure of the long-term effects of a concussion on memory. Memory loss is possible but not necessarily likely in the long-term. It is unlikely that just one concussion would lead to memory loss. Research has been focusing on multiple injuries to the brain and concussion in relation to memory loss. Most research into this has been on athletes in boxing and football. You may have seen the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This is a degenerative brain disease in people with a history of repeated brain trauma. Symptoms of CTE develop years after an individual sustains repetitive concussions. It is the result of a buildup of a specific type of protein in the brain compromising brain cells. This is generally seen in persons over 40, but not exclusively. CTE can result in impulse control issues, aggression, paranoia and depression.
If you have an accident hitting your head, or hit your head and experience any of the following: headache, dizziness, memory loss, nausea and/or vomiting, you should seek medical attention immediately. If you have a history where you were an athlete or had an occupation where you suffered hits to your head such as in sports and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, speak to your health care provider.
REFERENCE: Advance staff. March 21, 2018. Long term effects of concussion-when the immediate effects clear, how much damage remains? Elite Healthcare. Retrieved from: https://www.elitecme.com/resource-center/nursing/long-term-effects-of-concussion
Submitted by Katesel Strimbeck PT, MS, MHA. Katesel has been a PT for 22 years, she is Director of Rehabilitation Services at North Country Hospital, and a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.