A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that affects how your brain functions. These effects can be short-term, lasting only a few hours or days, or can lead to long-term problems. Concussions can be mild, moderate, or severe.Concussions occur as the result of a traumatic blow to the head.
“When someone suffers a concussion, the brain can literally bump against the inside of the skull, potentially tearing blood vessels and causing bleeding or damage to the brain itself,” says Sarah Menacho, MD, a neurosurgeon and neurocritical care specialist at University of Utah Health.
Long-Term Effects of a Concussion
No matter how they happen, concussions injure your brain to some extent and require time to heal. A brain injury from even the mildest concussion can have short-term and long-term effects. The effects of a concussion can be subtle and change over time. Symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.
Ongoing effects from a concussion are cumulative. Less than half of adults diagnosed with a moderate or severe concussion return to pre-injury level of functioning a year following their injury. Fortunately, most people see symptoms resolve within a few weeks. However, the more concussions you get, the more likely you are to suffer long-term consequences, especially if you don't give your brain enough time to heal between injuries.
“We're starting to learn that perhaps these seemingly minor blows to the head, when they're cumulative, can also lead to depression and behavior changes,” Menacho says. “In fact, we think that some suicides may be linked to the brain damage that results from multiple concussions."
When to See a Doctor for Concussion
Menacho recommends seeing a doctor within one to two days following a head injury—even if you do not require emergency treatment for the injury. This can help reduce the risk of short-term problems associated with concussions turning into more long-term issues.