If you’ve ever had a concussion, you’ve probably felt a little out of sorts for a while — especially if the concussion was mild. Some people experience severe concussions, and multiple ones at that.
We know that the body is an incredible machine. It’s capable of healing itself and allowing people to recover from things they’ve never imagined. Of course, not everyone is so lucky — there are long term effects of concussions on the brain that we’re only beginning to learn about now.
If you or someone you know has experienced multiple concussions in their lifetime, you might want to read this.
What Exactly is a Concussion?
A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It affects how your brain functions. The effects of a mild concussion are usually short term, lasting a few hours or days. More severe concussions, or consistent concussions, can cause some serious long-term problems.
Concussions are the result of a sudden traumatic blow to the head that essentially causes whiplash to the brain. Anything that could cause your head and brain to shake back and forth abruptly resulting in an altered mental state or unconsciousness is considered a traumatic blow to the head.
Concussions tend to be more common in youth and professional sports. Especially contact sports like football, rugby, ice hockey, boxing, martial arts, etc. Contact sports create a gateway for multiple concussions. If an athlete doesn’t give themself the proper amount of time to heal in between concussions, they run the risk of long term issues down the road.
What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
The general symptoms of a concussion can vary depending on the severity of the traumatic blow as well as the person who suffers the injury.
If you or someone else is concussed, you or they may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Memory problems i.e., forgetting your name, where you are, where you live, not recognizing those around you, etc.
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Ringing in the ears
- Balance issues and/or lack of coordination
- Blurred vision or doubled vision
- A headache
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Light and/or noise sensitivity
- Slow reaction time to questioning or stimuli
- Abnormal eye movement
- Unequal pupil size
- Slurred speech
- Blood or clear fluid leaking from nose or ears
- Bleeding or swelling of the brain
- A coma
Many of these symptoms may occur immediately after the traumatic head injury and some may come on hours, days, or even months later. When any of these symptoms occur, a doctor should be seen right away. It’s also imperative that whoever has suffered the traumatic brain injury is kept awake. Otherwise, they run the risk of slipping into a coma.
Long Term Effects of Concussions on the Brain
The long term effects of concussions are actually very rare. So rare that “only 20 percent of people who endure a traumatic brain injury experience what is known as post-concussion syndrome”, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (aans.org) The list of long term effects of concussions on the brain is much more specific than the short term. They include:
- Problems concentrating
- Memory problems
- Impaired speech
- personality changes including irritability and lack of emotions
- Intense mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- light and noise sensitivity
- Abnormal smell and/or taste
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
- Other psychological issues
The aforementioned and above symptoms usually subside within a few weeks. Individuals with post-concussion syndrome will continue to experience one or more of the above symptoms after six weeks. Certain symptoms may not be noticeable until years later.
Of course, the more concussions that an individual incurs, the more susceptible they are to suffering the long term effects. This is especially true for those who don’t give themselves enough time to heal in between concussions.
Diagnosing TBI Years Later
Even decades later, traumatic brain injuries can lead to memory loss and other frontal lobe issues. A recent study had tracked the diagnoses of dementia from 1964 to 2012 in patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries. The study concluded that while the risk of TBI induced dementia decreased over time, it was still prevalent 30 years post-traumatic brain jury.
Researchers had also found that the association between dementia and traumatic brain injuries was much more severe to patients with multiple traumatic brain injuries throughout their lives.
Dementia isn’t the only disease to watch out for, however. Doctors also believe that the long term effects of concussions on the brain — or multiple TBIs — contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
There is also an association between traumatic brain injuries and cognitive decline in the aging brain. While the subject has not been studied in depth yet, it is believed that damage to the frontal lobe caused by multiple TBIs contributes to an accelerated cognitive decline. This would be compared to individuals who haven’t suffered any TBIs in their lifetime.
To carry out a study based on this theory, an individual’s mental health and physical activity would have to be tracked over the course of their lifetime, which would be extremely difficult.
Recovering From TBI Years Later
The long term effects of concussions on the brain don’t just affect the individual, but their loved ones as well. The mental, physical, and emotional health risks run high depending on the severity of past traumatic brain injuries.
If you or a loved one is coping with speech impairment due to a traumatic brain injury, contact us. We specialize in online speech therapy.