Persisting Symptoms After Concussion

When Symptoms Don’t Go Away (Persisting Symptoms) After Concussion

After a concussion, most children return to typical function in three to four weeks.

About one in four (25%) of children can have symptoms that continue for a longer time. This is called Persisting Symptoms after Concussion or Post-Concussion Syndrome.

What Symptoms Can Persist After Concussion?

Symptoms vary from child to child. The most common symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Changes in mood or anxiety
  • Difficultly tolerating school or exercise

For children who develop persisting symptoms, the symptoms can be difficult to manage. Symptoms can affect school attendance and make it hard for children to complete schoolwork. Symptoms can also lead to depression, anxiety or other social and behavioral conditions. Many children with persisting symptoms have difficulty with exercise and may withdraw from enjoyable activities. Without proper medical care, symptoms can sometimes persist for months or even years.

What Causes Persisting Symptoms After Concussion?

There is no single cause. For most children with persisting symptoms, several factors contribute. For example, a concussion can lead to changes in normal exercise, sleep and behavior. Concussions can be stressful and difficult. They can cause children to miss school, sports or other enjoyable activities.

We do not always know which children will experience a longer recovery. Children may be at higher risk for persisting symptoms if they have a history of anxiety or emotional conditions, attention or learning disabilities or have experienced frequent headaches or migraines prior to their injury.

How Are Persisting Symptoms Treated?

Each child’s experience is different. There are usually many factors contributing to symptoms, so treatment is multi-faceted. Doctors can treat the individual symptoms that are persisting. 

Examples of treatment may include:

  • Exercise
  • Vestibular therapy
  • Neck therapy
  • Adjusting daily routines and sleep schedules
  • Modifications to the school day
  • Medications for headaches or pain
  • Counseling for anxiety and other mood disorders

Children who are experiencing concussion symptoms lasting more than one month can benefit from seeing a doctor who specializes in concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Often, several providers can work together to develop a plan of care, including a neurologist, neuropsychologist, physical therapist and athletic trainer.

The Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children's treats Persisting Symptoms after Concussion.

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