(ORDO NEWS) — Many people experience a concussion at some point in their lives, whether it’s contact sports or just a bad fall. But even a “mild” version of this trauma can cause long-term health consequences for some of the survivors.
A new study by a New Zealand team found that after eight years, adults who had a mild concussion experienced more persistent symptoms, depression and work problems than those who had never had a concussion.
This does not mean that all people who survive a concussion – also called a mild traumatic brain injury (STBI) – will have permanent symptoms, but it does highlight that a concussion can be a truly life-changing event for those people who do not get better after a couple of weeks.
“It is estimated that more than 10 million people get SBI each year, with 70-95 percent of them classified as mild.
SBI has widespread consequences, and while the effects of moderate and severe SBI are well documented, much less is known about the long-term effects of mild SBI. “, the researchers, led by University of Waikato psychology researcher Nicola Starkey, write in their new paper.
“More than a third (36 percent, n=54) of participants with mild SBI reported that they believed they were still suffering from an 8-year-old brain injury.”
A concussion can occur when the head hits anything, such as a steering wheel, knee, or the ground, or even when the direction of the body changes abruptly.
But the collision itself is not the cause of the damage: the forces generated by sudden, extreme changes in movement act on brain tissue, stretching the ends of neurons called axons. This can cause a variety of symptoms such as blackouts, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and mood changes.
The researchers found participants in the BIONIC study, which looked at all cases of SBI in Hamilton and Waikato, New Zealand over a year between 2010 and 2011.
Although the team identified 1,298 people with mild SBI, they ended up with 346 who completed the original survey and 151 who completed the follow-up survey eight years later. The group then compared 151 people with an equal number of control groups who had never had a concussion.
Not surprisingly, those who had a concussion reported more problems. What’s surprising, however, is how long these symptoms can persist – a third of the participants thought the concussion was still affecting them eight years later.
These long-term symptoms weren’t mild either: questionnaires showed that some people had post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety, work problems, and post-concussion syndrome.
The worst results seem to have been in women, especially those who have had multiple concussions.
“The mild SBI group had significantly more post-concussion symptoms compared to the non-SBI group. Women with mild SBI were twice as likely to have clinical scores for post-concussion and PTSD symptoms compared to the other groups, and reported that their health had the biggest impact on time-related work responsibilities,” the group writes in their paper.
“Twice as many women with recurrent mild SBI exceeded clinical criteria for postconcussion symptoms, anxiety, and PTSD compared with men with recurrent SBI or women with single SBI.”
The researchers suggest that managing trauma more effectively and treating any mental health issues that may arise may help reduce these long-term effects. In the meantime, this is another reminder of the need to take care of your head.
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