Many people do not realize it, but 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.
Let’s take a look at delayed concussion symptoms and other post-concussion health complications that can impact your life.
Causes of Concussions
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.
Concussions 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.
- Motor vehicle accidents, including when cars collide with cyclists or pedestrians.
Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussion symptoms fall into four general categories: cognitive, physical, emotional, and sleep-related.
- 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.
- Blurry and/or fuzzy vision.
- Nausea and/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 a medical evaluation right away. Never treat a concussion as something you can shake off or ignore.
Delayed Concussion Symptoms
Most concussions display at least some symptoms immediately. But, not all do.
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.
The whole variety of symptoms listed above can emerge over time, but delayed concussion symptoms often include memory problems, headaches, fatigue, and disrupted sleep.
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.
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.
Concussions and Re-Injury
After a concussion, your doctor will most likely tell you to take it easy for some time. It’s advice well-taken, even if your symptoms have not disrupted your life. Research suggests that if you have suffered one concussion, you face a higher-than-average risk of suffering another one, particularly if your brain has not yet healed from the first. 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 microtraumas 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 microtraumas.
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 can include:
- Memory loss;
- Impaired judgment;
- Problems controlling impulsive behavior;
- Feeling like committing suicide;
- 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. Also, 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
A concussion with delayed symptoms can take a heavy toll on your life and livelihood. If that injury stemmed from 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.
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.