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Concussion and Post-Concussion Syndrome, July 2017

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Concussion is a common injury, especially in athletes, military and first responders, and other active patients. While most people make a complete symptomatic recovery from concussion within a few weeks, a minority of individuals will experience prolonged symptoms even after the concussion itself is over. This is called post-concussion syndrome. A very common area of confusion is understanding the difference between concussion and post-concussion syndrome and the two terms are frequently used incorrectly, often interchangeably, when describing symptoms that occur after a brain injury.

Concussion is an acute traumatic brain injury caused by an external force such as a blow to the head, face, neck, or body. This injury causes transient changes in the brain that impair neurological function and can lead to a variety of symptoms. An injury of this nature typically resolves in 1-2 weeks. Any individual with persistent symptoms beyond that time should be suspected to have post-concussion syndrome.

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is when symptoms persist after a concussion has resolved. Post-concussion syndrome is not a long concussion and does not signify that there has been a more severe injury to the brain. The ongoing symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can be present for a variety of reasons that tend to differ from individual to individual. Common potential contributing factors to developing post-concussion syndrome include:

  • Pre-existing neurological diagnoses (migraine, ADHD, etc.)
  • Sleep issues
  • Cervical injuries
  • Mood disorders (anxiety, depression, irritability)
  • Changes in activity level from baseline (the “unplugged syndrome”)

It is critical to determine whether concussion or post-concussion syndrome is present, as the approach to treatment is very different. Management of post-concussion syndrome requires a comprehensive evaluation to:

  1. CIarify the diagnosis and determine that the concussion has resolved
  2. Identify all contributing factors and how they interact with each other
  3. Develop a multifaceted approach to treatment

Post-concussion syndrome can be a life-altering diagnosis, affecting all aspects of a patient’s daily functioning, but it is a treatable condition in the right hands and with a comprehensive and individualized management plan.

For more information, please visit https://thesportsneurologyclinic.com/post-concussion-syndrome/.

Contributed by: The Sports Neurology Clinic at The CORE Institute, located in Brighton (8273 Grand River Ave, Suite 210) and Plymouth (44191 Plymouth Oaks Blvd, Suite 400).


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult your doctor for more information or if you have a medical concern.


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