The Long Term Effects of Concussions

March 7, 2023
The Long Term Effects of Concussions

Although most people fully recover from concussions, here's why some effects may linger.

Head injuries such as concussions, especially in youth and professional sports, have always been part of the game. Thankfully, there is increasing emphasis being placed on trying to prevent these injuries from occurring. Steps are also being taken to better protect players from sustaining long term effects from their injuries. And that's a good thing, because although most concussions are mild, they should be taken seriously.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs due to some type of bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly within the skull. When this happens, brain cells may be damaged and there may be chemical or electrical changes that occur in the brain. Most concussions are not life-threatening, but their effects can be serious and long-lasting.

What happens after you have a concussion?

In most cases, the brain fully heals after sustaining a concussion. At least it appears that way when the brain is looked at using imaging technology such as a CT scan or MRI. But the brain is a complex organ, and sometimes even though the brain looks like it's healed, there may be lingering effects from the injury. Every person and every injury is different so it's hard to predict how quickly or how fully someone will recover after having a concussion.

What types of symptoms may linger after a concussion?

Some people have what is referred to as post-concussion syndrome. This may include symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, problems with concentration and memory, fatigue, sleep problems, balance issues, irritability/anxiety, depression, blurry vision, ringing in the ears, and noise and/or light sensitivity. These symptoms may last for weeks, months or even years.

Is there anything that helps speed recovery from a concussion?

In general, the sooner a concussion is treated, the faster and better the recovery. That's why it's so important for athletes, parents and coaches to be able to assess potential brain injuries and get injured players the medical care they need as quickly as possible. Finding a doctor who specializes in treating concussions may also help aid recovery because the healthcare provider may be more in tune with noticing, understanding and treating the subtle nuances of these brain injuries.

What if you have more than one concussion?

Although most people heal following a single concussion, the effects of concussion can be cumulative, especially if they occur shortly after one another. People who have multiple concussions may find that they experience more severe symptoms and it may take longer to recover. A study done at Harvard University found that former football players who reported more concussion symptoms during their careers were significantly more likely to report having cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety later in life.

Sports Medicine at Guthrie

When an injury strikes, we understand how important a fast recovery is to your athlete. That’s why our team of sports medicine caregivers share one common goal – to get our athletes back in the game as quickly and safely as possible.
Our caregivers are equipped to handle a wide variety of sports injuries, offering injury evaluation, concussion management, physical therapy, surgical procedures and more. In addition to the vast network of Guthrie providers across numerous specialties, we can ensure your athlete receives the best care possible, no matter the condition.

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Date Last Reviewed: January 19, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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