People who suffer relatively mild concussions do usually get better, but a concussion is still a traumatic brain injury. Some people find themselves with thinking problems, memory problems, and sensitivity to light or sound even a year after sustaining a concussion that a doctor classified as mild.
“Everything in my life changed,” Carole Starr told WebMD. At age 32, she was in a car crash and suffered a concussion that doctors said was mild. She had trouble thinking and remembering. She had such a sensitivity to sounds that she could no longer sing or play in an orchestra. She’s had to reinvent herself in order to live with the changes.
A study recently published in the journal Neurology found that nearly 14% of patients with mild concussions ended up with a poor cognitive outcome a year after their injury, compared to 5% of people in the study who did not have a brain injury.
The patients in the study received up to three neurological evaluations after their concussions at two weeks, six months and a year after the injury. They were tested on their cognition, which means memory, processing speed, language skills and other brain functions. A poor cognitive outcome was a measurable decline or impairment, or both, in cognition at the one-year anniversary of the injury. The study is ongoing to see if these patients improve with time.
Even a mild concussion could directly injure the brain, said the lead researcher of the study. However, it could instead affect mood and sleep, which themselves could cause cognitive issues.
What are common causes of concussions?
According to the Mayo Clinic, any kind of blow to the head could cause a concussion, which is defined as a traumatic brain injury that has an effect on your brain function. You can also get a concussion by violently shaking the head and upper body.
It’s very common for people to get concussions in falls, while playing contact sports, or in traffic crashes.
What symptoms should I be on the lookout for?
If your child plays a contact sport, for example, you may wonder if they will get a concussion with long-term effects. It’s good to remember that most concussions are not dangerous if treated with care and rest. However, you should always have a concussion evaluated by a doctor. How do you know you have a concussion?
Common symptoms include headache, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness and blurry vision. The person may also experience confusion or “fogginess,” amnesia about the event, dizziness or “seeing stars.”
You may notice the person has dazed appearance, slurred speech, a delayed response to questions, trouble remembering events, or even a temporary loss of consciousness, although that doesn’t always happen.
Ideally, you would have the person evaluated by a doctor immediately if any of the above symptoms occurred. However, days after the injury the person may see additional symptoms, such as:
- Complaints about memory and concentration
- Personality changes, especially irritability
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression or psychological problems adjusting
- Taste and smell disorders
Dangerous symptoms of concussion and brain injury
Anything more serious than the symptoms listed above needs emergency care. Serious symptoms include things like:
- Repeatedly vomiting
- Losing consciousness for more than 30 seconds
- A worsening headache
- Any fluid or blood draining from the ears or nose
- Dilated pupils or pupils of unequal sizes
- Ringing in the ears that doesn’t go away
- Looking very pale for longer than an hour
- Lasting dizziness
- Confusion or disorientation
- Changes in behavior or speech
- Changes in physical coordination
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Any large bump or bruise on the head in an area other than the forehead
- Any symptom that gets worse over time
Liability for brain injuries
If you or a loved one has lasting injuries after a blow to the head, it can be life-changing. If someone’s negligence or wrongful action was responsible for the injury, you may have a personal injury claim. Talk to a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to help.