Post-Concussion Syndrome

What is post-concussion syndrome?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs following trauma to the head and causes your brain to move slightly within the skull. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a collection of symptoms which may occur after a concussion. Not everyone who experiences a concussion will experience PCS, in fact most people have a quick recovery. Current research suggests that PCS may be caused by damage to the nerve fibres in the brain.

What are some of the symptoms?

Approximately 20% of people will experience PCS and have symptoms which last longer than 6 weeks. Symptoms experienced may take a while to resolve, but do not worsen as time goes one. Symptoms may include;

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • balance problems
  • sleep problems
  • mood changes such as irritability and anxiety.
  • vertigo and dizziness
  • decreased balance

Who is at risk of developing post-concussion syndrome?

  • Older adults
  • History of headaches/migraines
  • Female gender
  • Previous concussion

How is post-concussive syndrome diagnosed?

There is no definitive test, and diagnosis is based on history of head injury and symptoms. Other tests may be done to rule out other causes e.g stroke.

What treatment or management is there?

Treatment and management may inlcude

  • Assisting with diagnosis
  • Education on Post-Concussion Syndrome and understanding symptoms
  • Strategies to minimise rest
  • Rest to allow the brain to recover and heal
  • Guidance on return to work or study
  • Medical clearance for return to driving
  • Assessment and treatment of vertigo
  • Vestibular exercises
  • Balance Retraining
  • Gentle exercises
  • Liaison and referral to other trusted health professionals such as Occupational Therapists

If you believe you are experiencing post-concussion syndrome or have a diagnosis from a medical professional and are still experiencing difficulties, it may be time to seek assistance from a qualified physiotherapist to help aid your recover.

Neve Cavanagh (APAM)

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Donna K. Broshek, Anthony P. De Marco & Jason R. Freeman (2015) A review of post-concussion syndrome and psychological factors associated with concussion, Brain Injury, 29:2, 228-237, DOI: 10.3109/02699052.2014.974674

Willer, B., Leddy, J.J. Management of concussion and post-concussion syndrome. Curr Treat Options Neurol 8, 415–426 (2006).

Leddy JJ, Sandhu H, Sodhi V, Baker JG, Willer B. Rehabilitation of Concussion and Post-concussion Syndrome. Sports Health. 2012;4(2):147-154. doi:10.1177/1941738111433673