A blow to the head can be more serious than most people think, because after such a blow you could end up with post-concussion syndrome.
What is post-concussion syndrome?
Post-concussion syndrome, or post-traumatic nervous instability, involves a collection of disabling symptoms like:
- Trouble concentrating
- Poor memory
- Personality changes
- Sleep disturbances
These symptoms may develop immediately after a concussion or in the days or weeks after a concussion injury. Once the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome are established, they may persist for months and they are known to resist treatment.
Post-concussion syndrome may be confused for chronic fatigue and pain, depression, vestibular dysfunction, cervical injury, visual dysfunction or combinations of these conditions. 1,2
What are the mechanisms through which Post-concussion syndrome develops?
Various mechanisms have been connected to the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. Let’s have a look at some of these suggested mechanisms:
When acceleration-deceleration forced are applied to the head (and brain), some neural and vascular elements are sheared and the neurons are depolarized suddenly. A period follows during which there is a failure in nerve cell transmission and this may lead to the loss of consciousness. 2
After a blow to the head, the injury to the brain sets off a cascade of ionic, neurochemical and metabolic changes that change glucose metabolism and blood flow in the brain and this causes a change in the respiration cycle in the cells of the brain. 2
Functional brain blood circulation can be affected by the mechanical changes and the neuro-metabolic changes that are induced by a concussion injury. Other organ systems (outside of the brain) may also go through some physiologic and metabolic changes following a concussion.
After a concussion injury, the autoregulation of blood flow to and inside the brain is also disturbed and this may explain why the symptoms tend to reappear or worsen after mental or physical exertion. The impairment of the blood flow to the brain makes the brain vulnerable for hypotension, dehydration and intracranial hypertension.2
Reasons why the symptoms are prolonged
After a concussion injury, the brain is in a vulnerable condition and this means that it is at an increased risk for more injury until it returns to its normal metabolic state. A second blow or even a minor injury could lead to more debilitating symptoms.
Some groups of people may be at an increased risk of getting Post-concussion syndrome including: 2
- Younger people
- People who have a history of concussion injuries
- People with a history of cognitive dysfunction
- Individuals suffering from affective disorders like depression
What can I do to assist the recovery from Post-concussion syndrome?
When it comes to brain injuries, the recovery time may vary from person to person and it may depend on many different factors. Here are some tips to help you heal from your brain injury: 3,4
- Get some proper sleep and rest during the daytime
- Stay away from activities that may cause a second injury to the brain like contact sports until it is safe to return to such activities
- Do not return to your everyday activities all at once, take it easy
- Listen to your doctor’s recommendations on when to return to school or work
- Seeing as your reaction speed may be slower after a brain injury, ask your doctor when it is safe to drive a car or operate heavy equipment again
- If possible, talk to your employer about changing your work activities or about making a gradual return to work until you have recovered
- Only take drugs that have been approved by your health practitioner
- Refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages until the doctor says it is safe
- Consult your friends and family about important decisions
- Make time for your basic needs like eating etc.
Post-concussion syndrome can be very hard to deal with, but if you put in a little effort and stick to your health practitioner’s recommendations you may feel better sooner.
If you or a loved one is suffering from post-concussion syndrome, call Brain Hub on 1300 770 197 today!
- Ropper AH, Gorson KC. Concussion. N Engl J Med. 2007; 356:166-172.
- Leddy JJ, Sadhu H, Sodhi V, Baker JG, Willer B. Rehabilitation of Concussion and Post-concussion Syndrome. Sports Health. Mar 2012; 4(2): 147–154.
- McGrath N. Supporting the student-athlete’s return to the classroom after a sport-related concussion. Journal of Athletic Training. 2010; 45(5): 492–498.
- Betty Clooney Center. Concussion and mild TBI. Available from: http://www.bcftbi.org/about-tbi/concussion.asp