Lasting Effects of a Sports Concussion: What You Need To Know About Post-Concussion Syndrome

The immediate symptoms of a sports concussion are jarring. Many people who experience a sports concussion are surprised to learn that the effects of their traumatic brain injury (TBI) will last long beyond the day they’re cleared to return to their sport.

Here, we’ll learn more about post-concussion syndrome, a collection of symptoms that follow a standard sports concussion.

What Is A Concussion?

Many people associate a concussion with getting knocked unconscious, but a concussion can occur without a person getting “knocked out.” Concussions are traumatic brain injuries caused by an impact that causes the head and brain to move in a rapid, unnatural way.

When the head, neck, or shoulders are struck by an impact that causes a concussion, chemical changes in the brain can occur. Sometimes, brain cells are also stretched and damaged, which can cause lasting neurological issues.

Concussions are not often life-threatening, but repeated concussions can have lasting effects that cause significant impacts on the brain.

Signs of a sports concussion can include:

  • Inability to remember events before and after the concussion
  • Loss of consciousness (this may be brief, or may not occur at all)
  • Changes in behavior or personality
  • A change in gait or general clumsiness while walking or moving
  • Confusion around instructions, score of the game, or how to execute a play
  • Taking more time than normal to answer simple questions
  • A confused, dazed, stunned, or shocked appearance
  • A feeling of pressure in the head, or a sudden headache
  • Vomiting, nausea, or just not “feeling right”
  • Vision issues including sensitivity to light and blurry vision

It’s important for people who experience events that could result in a concussion to pay attention to the development of symptoms over time. For some people, the first symptom of a concussion is a dazed or confused appearance. Other symptoms—including loss of memory of what caused the incident—may not occur until hours or days after the concussion occurred.

What Is Post-Concussion Syndrome?

Research on the long-term effects of a sports concussion is ongoing, and it’s difficult to tell why some people experience long-term symptoms and others do not. Post-concussion syndrome is the name given to a group of symptoms that some people experience following a concussion.

Post-concussion syndrome can last for months after a sports concussion. Some people experience further-reaching symptoms after a concussion that never go away.

Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can include:

  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurry vision and sensitivity to light

Does Post-Concussion Syndrome Go Away?

Research shows that while the initial symptoms of a concussion fade with time, many people experience a “prolonged ‘neuro-metabolic’ cascade or secondary brain injury.”

Repeated concussions that occur before the prior secondary brain injury is fully healed may result in metabolic and energy issues in the brain, which can result in longer-lasting sports concussion symptoms.

What To Do If You’re Experiencing Post-Concussion Syndrome

If you think that you or your child are experiencing post-concussion syndrome symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor about steps you can take to keep your mind and body safe as you recover from your injury.