Consequences of Recurrent Concussion

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Why should we worry about concussion or mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)? After all it’s “mild,” isn't it? There are far more urgent head injuries that come into the Emergency Department (ED), requiring lengthy resuscitation efforts and ICU care etc. The truth is mTBI can have devastating short-term and long-term consequences.

 

In terms of short-term consequences, if a person receives two concussive events, usually in quick succession but certainly before recovery form the first concussion there is a very serious condition known as “second impact syndrome”. This is where the brain swells rapidly following the second injury and can often be fatal. Thankfully this is rare. More commonly we see secondary injury following a concussive blow. This, in the field of Sports Medicine can manifest as poor game awareness and musculoskeletal trauma leading to an increased period of time the player has to take away from the sport in the rehab room!

 

When looking into the long-term consequences of recurrent mTBI, patients can report symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and poor concentration/sleep lasting many months. Perhaps most importantly there is a huge amount of research currently underway looking at Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is a progressive neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated concussions. The sequelae of this are wide ranging but include behavioural and mood problems that increase over time and can result in early onset dementia.