Little-Known Syndrome Afflicts Many After a Concussion

September 19, 2008 06:54 AM
by Emily Coakley
Memory and emotional problems can persist long after a concussion is supposed to have healed, researchers are finding—a condition called post-concussion syndrome.

Physical Wounds Had Healed

Jessica Leuthold, an 18-year-old from Montana, fell off her mountain bike and cracked her helmet in two places. Though the doctors told her she was fine, she began to have problems with her memory, balance and concentration.

“All my physical wounds healed, and everyone said, ‘What's wrong with you? Move on,’” Leuthold told the Billings Gazette.

Leuthold had post-concussion syndrome, which affects between 30 and 80 percent of people who get concussions each year, the newspaper reports. With PCS, concussion symptoms can last for months.

A more famous victim of post-concussion syndrome is Ryan Church, an outfielder for the New York Mets. Church was out of action for much of June and July after suffering a concussion in May during a game with the Atlanta Braves.

Opinion & Analysis: Watching concussion effects first-hand; ‘no one told us’

Dan Peterson wrote about his son’s concussion on the blog Sports Are 80 Percent Mental. His nine-year-old lost consciousness after sliding into the boards during a hockey game. After he came to, he wasn’t himself, even though tests showed there was no bleeding or skull fractures.

“He could not tell us his name, his teammates names, or even his brothers’ names,” Peterson wrote in August. “His expression was blank and he kept asking the same questions, ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what happened?’”

It took four hours before his son could remember things and became himself again. Luckily, he didn’t seem to suffer from post-concussion syndrome.

For others, watching a loved one deal with post-concussion syndrome can be difficult, especially if they don’t know the condition exists.

Bobo Blogger, who describes herself as a lawyer in western Pennsylvania, described her husband’s experience with a head injury. He was still having problems even though tests showed the swelling and bleeding on his brain were gone.

“The doctor was unable to answer why he is still experiencing major symptoms and only offered post concussion syndrome after a lot of prodding and questions from me,” Bobo Blogger wrote at the beginning of last month. “It appears that my husband is suffering post concussion syndrome. Which is apparently common after a head injury, but no one told us. The doctor yesterday told me to ‘go home and look it up on the internet.’”

Reference: Post-concussion syndrome

A person doesn’t have to lose consciousness to suffer a concussion, the Mayo Clinic explains. It’s not yet clear why one concussion leads to the syndrome and another doesn’t, and there is no conclusive evidence that a concussion’s severity and the likelihood of developing the syndrome are linked. Doctors usually treat the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, but there is no treatment for the condition itself.

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