Repeated Concussions: Its Dangerous Effects to the Brain

Categories: Brain Injury

Man with head injury receiving the first aid.

Concussions are common in personal injury claims, especially car accidents and motorcycle accidents. Many people with a concussion heal within a few weeks with no noticeable side effects. However, other people experience lingering symptoms. Even if you recover from a concussion without any long-term effects, there are future risks. People who have had one concussion are more susceptible to another one. The dangerous effects to the brain after repeated concussions include long-term symptoms that are collectively known as post-concussive syndrome.

If someone else’s negligence caused your concussion, you could have the legal right to pursue a claim for damages. If you are suffering long-term problems following such a concussion, you need an experienced Washington injury lawyer who can help.  The legal team at Brett McCandlis, Brown & Conner understand what a terrifying time this can be for you and your family. You don’t have to go through it alone. Let us help you hold the responsible party accountable and refer you to a qualified specialist.

How Do Repeated Concussions Affect the Brain?

A concussion is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It occurs when your head sustains a shake, jolt, blow, or any direct impact. There is resulting inflammation that occurs as a way of protecting your brain. While the brain is inflamed, it doesn’t get the right amount of oxygen and can temporarily stop operating as it should. Once the inflammation ceases, oxygen flow returns, and normal function resumes. However, if there is an area repeatedly subjected to a lack of oxygen, it may never function normally again.

According to University of California San Francisco researchers, minor concussions can lead to an increased risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. They note that almost three million people need to visit an emergency room in the United States for a brain injury every year. 70 to 90% of these cases involve mild traumatic brain injuries, such as a concussion. Remember, these statistics don’t include all the people who sustain a concussion and don’t seek medical treatment.

UCSF researchers studied over 300,000 people and determined an increased risk of dementia or Parkinson’s disease, even after only one concussion. They reviewed military veterans with varying levels of brain injuries, including concussions that can happen every day in civilian life. Prior studies examined non-military populations, which showed a similar risk of long-term damage from mild traumatic brain injuries.

These researchers note that the majority of concussions seen in emergency rooms result from car accidents. However, ground-level falls account for more mild brain injuries in older adults.

Post-Concussive Symptoms

Symptoms following a concussion can be broken into several main categories: cognitive symptoms, mood-related symptoms, sensory-related symptoms, and blood dysregulation. Understanding these symptoms can help you recognize whether you might be suffering from post-concussive syndrome.

Cognitive-related symptoms can include:

  • Being easily distracted;
  • Difficulty reading;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Brain fog;
  • Memory problems; and
  • Difficulty finding things.

Sensory-related symptoms may include ringing in the ears, blurry vision, a change in your ability to taste or smell, and motion sickness.

Mood-related symptoms involve mood and personality changes, such as:

  • Anxiety or feeling overwhelmed;
  • Depression or irritability;
  • Lack of motivation or energy; and
  • Other personality or mood disruptions.

Blood dysregulation symptoms include:

  • Dizziness;
  • Sensitivity to light and noise;
  • Headache;
  • Fatigue;
  • Pressure in your head;
  • Disturbances in sleep;
  • Repeated neck pain;
  • Nausea, and
  • Tired eyes.

Symptoms can appear in many ways. Not everyone’s post-concussion experience is the same. Some people have worse symptoms than others during their first concussion. If you recently sustained a concussion and are having any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical assistance right away.

Do all you can to avoid a second concussion, especially before the first one heals. If you get back to back or overlapping concussions, the risk of permanent damage increases. Follow-up care is also important, especially if you are experiencing dizziness and headaches.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) refers to the brain’s degeneration after suffering repeated head traumas. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is not something that can typically be diagnosed during your lifetime. Instead, it’s a diagnosis made by studying sections of the brain during an autopsy. Researchers consider CTE to be rare, and they are trying to understand how repeated head trauma and other factors alter the brain resulting in CTE.

They have found CTE in people who played contact sports, such as football and even boxing. Military people exposed to explosive blasts may be prone to CTE. Symptoms may develop decades after the head trauma. They don’t know how often CTE occurs or completely understand the causes. Currently, there is no cure for CTE either. Researchers are currently working on developing diagnostic biomarkers.

Possible Treatment for a Concussion

Everyone’s brain is different. A concussion affects people in different ways, which is why it’s important to seek medical treatment for a diagnosis and customized treatment plan. During a neurological exam, your medical provider will ask questions about the events leading to your injury. They will check your neurological reflexes and function, your balance and coordination, as well as your eyes. They may also use a combination of written, verbal, or cognitive tests that check your concentration, memory, thinking skills, and problem-solving abilities.

Diagnostic studies such as a CT scan or MRI aren’t always necessary in the early stages of a concussion injury because the effects aren’t always visible. However, if your doctor suspects there might be spinal injuries, brain swelling, or bleeding inside the skull, they may order imaging tests right away.

Treatment will vary based on your symptoms and injury severity. Despite what you may think, 100% mental rest isn’t always the answer. Your doctor may tell you to limit activities that trigger or worsen your symptoms. That could include looking at a computer or your phone, watching television, or even reading a book.

Contact a Washington Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love is suffering the effects of a concussion following a personal injury accident, you could have the legal right to pursue a claim against the responsible party. At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC, we have years of experience assisting injured victims just like you recover the compensation they deserve. We understand how terrifying a head injury can be and we can protect your rights. You should be concentrating on your recovery, not worrying about how you will pay for treatment or time missed from work.

Insurance companies tend to downplay the value of a mild traumatic brain injury claim by not accounting for the future long-term risks of a head injury. Don’t risk your potential settlement by handling the claim on your own. Let us review the facts of your case and advise you on the best legal course of action. Don’t assume that there is no risk of lingering symptoms because you feel better in a few days. Instead, contact our office today to schedule a consultation. Let us fight for the maximum compensation possible in your case.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.