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Can a Single Concussion Lead to Lasting Brain Damage?

Even a mild concussion has the potential to create lasting damage in your brain that can be detected a year or more after you

While concussions are medically described as “mild” brain injuries, each injury is potentially serious. There’s no single timetable for recovery, just as there is no single list of symptoms. About two to three million concussions related to sports and recreation occur every year, and as many as 50% of these are undetected or unreported. Does a single concussion cause lasting damage? As with many brain-related questions, there’s no easy answer.

The effects of concussion

Blows or violent movement of the head can cause concussion, a traumatic injury that can affect brain function. The injury can affect balance, cognitive function, concentration, coordination, memory, or combinations of these, typically accompanied by headache.

Losing consciousness isn’t necessary to sustain a concussion and in fact, you won’t with most concussions. It’s possible to sustain a brain injury without being aware that you have one. Symptoms may not occur immediately, though once they start, they could last for days, weeks, months, or beyond.

Long-term effects from a single concussion

In most cases, a single concussion is thought not to cause long-term brain damage if you fully recover before sustaining another injury. A subsequent brain trauma of any level could, however, create combined damage that may be out of proportion with the extent of either injury.

There’s also alarming statistical evidence that a single concussion may have complex effects down the road. A 2013 news release from the journal Radiology pointed to a small study of concussion patients who showed measurable losses of brain matter in magnetic resonance imaging tests taken one year after the initial injury, tissue loss that’s typically missed with routine diagnostic imaging.

A 2016 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a connection between concussion and suicide, shows that people suffering even a single concussion may be up to three times more likely to attempt suicide.

Symptoms for which to be on watch

The results of traumatic brain injury remain unpredictable. Prevention is, of course, the most effective way of side-stepping the risks of concussion, but it’s not always effective since head injuries are often unpredictable. Since even mild concussions create long-term effects, detection and follow-up can be critical.

Know what to look for in yourself or in family members or friends who may not realize they’ve sustained a brain injury. Some common symptoms include:

Emergence of symptoms can be immediate or delayed for days or more. Anytime you sustain an injury that could possibly include concussion, it’s a good time to contact Abbey Neurodynamic Center. Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Richard Abbey can help with the difficult tasks of both diagnosing and treating concussion and its symptoms, no matter how minor or complex.

It’s dangerous to underestimate the effects of concussion. Contact Abbey Neurodynamic Center today, by phone or through the Contact Us link on the website. 


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