For the hundreds of thousands of individuals who suffer from concussion (also called traumatic brain injury) per year, a common question is what the long term effects are from such an injury. Understanding this could not only impact treatment options and patient education, but when this arises in a legal case it can impact the case outcome. Recently, this issue has been the focus of much research. Previous studies confirmed the existence of persistent symptoms up to one year post-concussion, but few studies had examined longer term consequences of post-concussive symptoms.
A recent study published in 2018 by researchers at the University of Technology in Aukland, New Zealand confirmed the presence of long-term cognitive effects in test subjects up to four years after a sustaining a concussion injury. The study evaluated 232 subjects, aged 16 years or older, who had sustained a concussion four years prior. These subjects had been involved in a previous study and included individuals who sought medical care following their injury as well as individuals who self-reported only, with no medical care. Details of the injuries and symptoms were reviewed by health care providers, including neurologists and neuropsychologists, to determine whether the subjects were eligible for the study on the long term effects of concussion. Subjects who had lost consciousness for 30 minutes or less, as well as those who had not lost consciousness but reported an altered state of awareness immediately following injury, were deemed eligible. Participants of the study were tested in several areas of symptoms associated with post-concussive syndrome. Test results were compared to a control group of 232 age- and sex matched individuals.
The study found that participants who had suffered a concussion reported ongoing cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, slowed mental processing and fatigue, which were still present four years post-injury. Concussion survivors also reported a significant decrease or withdrawal in community participation which affected their productivity at work and affected the quality of their interpersonal relationships and ability to socialize. While the study group’s physical symptoms related to the head injury had essentially resolved by the four year mark, the persistence of their cognitive complaints suggest that those symptoms which do not resolve during the acute phase post-concussion are likely to become chronic and have a negative impact on cognitive function and social interaction without intervention. The study noted a changed sense of self, difficulty in adjusting and managing limitations following a head injury, and difficulty in coping with the unpredictability of the future, especially in the workplace, as key factors impacting a subject’s employment and social interaction following a concussive injury.
Recovery following a concussion/traumatic brain injury is often a complex process that involves evaluation and treatment by several health care professionals. When the trauma is caused by another person’s negligence there are also legal and insurance issues involved that may require a consultation with an attorney experienced in understanding this unique type of injury and its residual symptoms. The attorneys of Adler Giersch, PS, stand ready to provide assistance to those needing expert guidance and advocacy.
 Theadom A, Starkey N, Barker-Collo S, Jones K, Ameratunga S, Feigin V, et al. (2018) Population-based cohort study of the impacts of mild traumatic brain injury in adults four years post-injury. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0191655. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0191655