Delayed Concussion Symptoms

Many people do not realize that a concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. In fact, the official medical term for a concussion is “mild traumatic brain injury” or “mTBI.”

Names, however, can be deceiving. Many “mild” brain injuries have major consequences for their victims, especially those who suffer from delayed concussion symptoms. If you’ve suffered a head injury due to someone else’s negligent actions, you should seek medical attention and speak to a brain injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Let’s take a look at delayed concussion symptoms and other post-concussion health complications that can impact your life.

Causes of Concussions and Traumatic Head Injuries

Concussions, like any traumatic brain injury, happen from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body, which causes the brain to shake, twist, or deform momentarily inside the skull, leading to damage to brain tissue.

Concussion symptoms commonly occur in connection with:

  • Contact sports, such as hockey, football, rugby, soccer, or boxing, and sports that involve the potential for high-impact falls, like skiing, figure skating, gymnastics, or cycling.
  • Violent crimes, such as domestic abuse or assault.
  • Falls on hard surfaces or from high heights.
  • Combat-related exposure to explosions or concussive forces.
  • Car accidents, including when cars collide with motorcycles, cyclists, or pedestrians.
  • Motorcycle accidents

Symptoms of a Concussion

Many believe that a head injury is only serious if you lose consciousness. However, this is simply not true. Concussive symptoms can affect many physical and cognitive functions, and often the exact relationship between the initial impact and the side effects is difficult to identify. Concussion symptoms fall into four general categories: cognitive, physical, emotional, and sleep-related, and may include:

  • Fuzzy thinking and having a hard time creating a coherent thought.
  • Feeling as though everything you do is in slow motion.
  • Inability to concentrate, even for short periods.
  • Difficulty in retaining new information and other memory issues.
  • Headaches.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Dizziness and trouble balancing.
  • Decreased coordination. 
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Poor balance.
  • Being more sensitive to light or noise.
  • Having no energy.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feeling sad.
  • Being more emotional.
  • Increased nervousness.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Sleeping more or less than usual.
  • Trouble getting to sleep.

Concussion victims may suffer just one of these symptoms, or several symptoms simultaneously. Symptoms may also come-and-go, or change over time as the brain heals or adapts to the injury. As concussion protocols in professional sports show us, anyone who has suffered a violent blow or jolt to the body should seek medical care right away. Never treat a concussion as something you can shake off or ignore.

Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

After seeking medical attention for a mild head injury, your doctor may allow you to treat your symptoms at home. Concussion recovery for a mild TBI may vary from person to person. Some will experience few symptoms that gradually improve, while others may experience delayed concussion symptoms or a constellation of symptoms that come and go over time. Others may go on to experience post-concussion syndrome, for which more extensive treatment is required.

Talk to your doctor about what treatment plan they recommend for your at-home recovery after a mild head injury. They may advise that you avoid certain activities for a time, even if your symptoms were mild. Never hesitate to seek additional medical care if your symptoms change.

How Long After a Head Injury Can Symptoms Occur?

Most concussions display at least some symptoms immediately. But, not all do. If you suffer a suspected concussion, you should go to the emergency department right away. Some immediate symptoms that are cause for concern and rapid medical attention are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • A black eye without direct trauma to the eye area
  • Numbness or weakness in body parts
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Speech difficulties or slurred speech
  • A foreign object lodged in the head injury

If you don’t develop these symptoms or problems at the time of the injury, you may still experience a delayed concussion.

Delayed Concussion Symptoms

Sometimes, noticeable concussion symptoms emerge only days or weeks after the injury occurs. That does not necessarily mean the injury gets worse. Initial symptoms might be so mild that you do not recognize them right away. In fact, you may not even have realized that you suffered a concussion in the first place. New symptoms might also emerge as the brain heals and adapts to the injury, and should be closely monitored by a medical professional.

The whole variety of symptoms listed above can emerge over time, but delayed concussion symptoms usually include memory problems, headaches, fatigue, and disrupted sleep.

Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms

Delayed concussion symptoms can also accompany or be related to a condition known as post-concussion syndrome, which is characterized by concussion symptoms that last long after the typical week-to-month-long timeline for healing and recovery from a concussion. In some patients, post-concussion syndrome symptoms can last a year or more. Even a minor head injury may lead to long-term symptoms, such as balance problems or changes in behavioral patterns.

According to the famed Mayo Clinic, doctors believe post-concussion syndrome may result from structural changes to the brain stemming from the initial traumatic brain injury.

If you suffer from persistent post-concussion symptoms, you should speak to your healthcare provider about options to manage the negative effects. These may include a combination of medication, physical therapy, and counseling.

Concussions and Re-Injury

After a concussion, your doctor will most likely tell you to take it easy for some time. If you play contact sports or regularly engage in other activities with risks for head trauma, you may be advised to stop for a time. It’s advice well-taken, even if your symptoms have not disrupted your life.

Research suggests that if you have suffered one head injury, you face a higher-than-average risk of suffering another one, particularly if your brain has not yet healed from the initial concussion. Re-injury following a concussion is often known as “second impact syndrome.” With delayed concussion symptoms, you may not realize the full extent of damage you have suffered, so it’s important to avoid activities that might cause another concussion.

Activities that could cause jostling of the brain while it is healing can cause you to re-injure yourself, with potentially catastrophic consequences. A subsequent injury could cause more severe damage to the brain, including bleeding, swelling, and tissue death. This may lead to a host of worsening symptoms, including more-severe occurrences of symptoms you have already experienced, or the emergence of new and debilitating symptoms.

Concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Suffering one or more concussions can also put you at risk of developing long-term health complications. Doctors believe a strong link exists between concussions and the newly recognized brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that tends to emerge years after someone has suffered repeated brain injuries. Recent high-profile CTE studies have found it prevalent in former football players, who likely sustained numerous concussions or just microtrauma throughout their playing careers.

The trend of sports leagues at all levels adopting concussion protocols owes itself to increasing concern over the possibility of athletes suffering severe and lifelong brain damage from repeated, minor concussions and microtrauma.

Doctors believe repeated trauma to the brain causes the brain tissue to degenerate and build up tau—a protein—in excessive quantities, resulting in severe physical, cognitive, and emotional deficits. However, medical understanding of CTE is still incomplete, such as why CTE develops in some people who have a history of multiple concussions, but not others.

Symptoms of CTE in concussion patients can include:

  • Memory loss;
  • Impaired judgment;
  • Confusion;
  • Aggression;
  • Problems controlling impulsive behavior;
  • Feeling like committing suicide;
  • Depression;
  • Parkinson’s-like symptoms; and
  • Progressive dementia.

At present, doctors can only deliver a definitive diagnosis of CTE after death by performing an autopsy on a patient’s diseased brain. Doctors can, however, diagnose presumptive CTE cases and start patients on a course of treatment. As of this writing, researchers have not yet found a cure for CTE, although numerous studies are ongoing.

Patients suffering from CTE might mistakenly believe they have Alzheimer’s disease or similar dementia. Those conditions do share many symptoms with CTE, but differences also exist. Generally, CTE emerges at a younger age than Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia. CTE can affect various aspects of brain function. However, the most common symptom associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s is a gradual loss of memory, while CTE’s early symptoms tend toward struggles with reasoning, judgment, aggression, and impulse control.

Delayed-Symptom Concussions and Your Legal Rights

Brain Injury Attorneys

A concussion with delayed symptoms can take a heavy toll on your life and livelihood. If that injury stemmed from a car accident, a slip-and-fall, or another event involving someone else’s wrongful conduct, then you may have the right to take legal action seeking financial compensation to help you treat and adapt to your condition.

For example, if you are struggling with delayed concussion symptoms after a rear-end vehicle accident, you may be able to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, to help pay for your medical expenses and post-concussion treatment, lost earnings, and more.

To learn more about your potential legal rights after suffering a concussion because of someone else’s careless or dangerous actions, contact a skilled brain injury attorney for a free consultation.

July 1, 2023
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