Understanding The Long Term Effects Of Concussions

A concussion can be defined as a minor traumatic brain injury caused by a severe blow to the head. Concussion may or may not result in unconsciousness and may include a variety of other symptoms that range from mild to severe. Recovery can occur as quickly as within a few hours, but may take as long as a few weeks. Repeated concussions, such as those obtained from playing sports, can have long term consequences, such as with movement, speaking, or even learning.

A research study published in the journal Neurosurgery showed that athletes who sustained multiple concussions had a greater risk of developing dysfunctions with motor control, or movement. The study showed that those who received additional concussions suffered even greater dysfunction, proving the cumulative and long term effects of sustaining repeated concussions over time.

Effects of sustaining a concussion are often apparent immediately, such as dizziness, headache, confusion, and even unconsciousness. The effects of a concussion are not limited to symptoms such as these. Those who sustain a concussion may also experience physical effects, such as blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and trouble with balance. Many other symptoms can occur as well, including changes in mood and sleep disturbances. Most of the time, symptoms experienced after a concussion will only last a few days, but they can often remain for much longer, even up to a few months. With repeated concussions, such as for those who play sports, these effects may become worse over time and last for longer periods of time.

According to an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, those who sustain repeated concussions are also at risk for more permanent forms of brain damage. These are not limited to motor control functions or areas listed with concussion symptoms. Repeated brain trauma from concussions increases the risk of developing dementia and related diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Even without the development of dementia and its related conditions, those who receive repeated concussions are more at risk for long term and permanent difficulties with all types of cognitive functioning, including concentration, focus, learning, and memory.

In an effort to bring about awareness for the long term effects of repeated concussions, many sports teams are displaying posters detailing the risks of repeated concussions. Athletes are encouraged to keep diaries regarding head injuries in order to determine long term associated risks for cumulative effects of sustaining multiple concussions that can result in long term or permanent brain damage to the athlete. The use of helmet concussion monitors can collect data from major head impacts, allowing athletes and physicians to know the location of potential brain damage. If subsequent concussions affect the same area of the brain, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of long term and permanent brain damage. This information can help physicians in determining proper treatment options and allow the athlete to take more precautionary measures or the choice to avoid taking additional risks entirely, depending on the potential damage.