Damage from concussions may last longer than was previously believed. New studies indicate that while symptoms such as headache and fatigue fade relatively quickly, cognitive effects can linger for as long as a year after the injury.
Concussion, the most common type of traumatic brain injury, usually results from a blow to the head—either striking the head on an object or being hit in the head by an object—but can also be induced by shaking. They are a major risk of contact sports.
Most concussions do not cause loss of consciousness. The most common symptoms are headaches, dizziness, nausea and trouble with coordination. These symptoms, called somatic symptoms, typically go away after a short time. There are also cognitive symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, trouble focusing, and reasoning deficits. Patients often forget the events immediately leading up to the injury, and immediately thereafter.
Now research shows that these cognitive symptoms don’t always fade as quickly as the somatic ones. As many as ten percent of children who lose consciousness due to concussion will continue to show signs of brain trauma for many months after the original injury. This can have lifelong consequences, as the disorientation and loss of focus can lead to trouble in school.
Another study showed similar results for older patients. In that study, adults with concussions seemed to largely recover after ten days, but cognitive and motor coordination problems persisted.
One thing that seemed to help was prompt treatment. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible after a concussion.