Effects of Mild Brain Trauma
Short Term Effects
A concussion places a person at risk for second impact syndrome (video 2) if the person experiences another concussion before the first concussion is fully resolved (Mayo Clinic). Second impact syndrome can lead to rapid and lethal brain swelling, which is why it is important for all persons with a concussion to avoid activities that place them at risk for a second concussion (Mayo Clinic). In fact the CDC reports that sports-related concussions lead to an average of 1.5 deaths annually. In most cases this occurs following a previous, and often unreported, concussion (American Association of Neurological Surgeons).
Long Term Effects
The long-term effects of concussions have not been completely agreed upon. Some argue, based on brain analysis that a full recovery will occur within three months, while others argue that despite evidence that most persons recovery fully by that time, with a small minority retaining residual effects of the injury (Ruff, 2011).
It has been noted by psychotherapists that persons suffering from a concussive injury may complain of debilitating psychological effects such as disturbed sleep cycles, reduced energy levels, and depression (Ruff, 2011). While discussions of the long-term effects of concussions can include mental deterioration, there may be physical effects related to these mental changes. An example would be that persons who have suffered a concussion may have an altered gait up to 6.3 years following the trauma (Martini, et al., 2011). Persons with a history of concussive trauma are more conservative in their gait, having a slower walking speed and spending more time in a “double-leg stance support” (Martini, et al., 2011). This may be due to impaired ability for “motor planning” or an attempt to reduce the risk of further injury (Martini, et al., 2011).
Other Possible Complications
Many concussions occur in sports competitions at the pediatric level. Recurrent mild traumatic brain injury places these young athletes at increased risk of neurodegenerative disease in the future (Duenas, 2011).
The risk of the development of epilepsy doubles within the first five years after a person has had a concussion (Mayo Clinic).
Patients may also suffer from postconcussive syndrome. In these cases concussive symptoms may persevere for multiple weeks or even months, at times severely hindering the persons ability to perform normal activities. While experiencing symptoms of postconcussive syndrome, any activity that may lead to a concussion should be avoided (American Association of Neurological Surgeons).