POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME – DEFINITION
Post concussion syndrome is a term used to describe the lingering effects of concussion. When your head is hit by something, it sends a shock wave through your brain from one side to the other, damaging brain cells in the process. When a brain cell is damaged, its ability to do its job processing information is compromised, leading to confusion, memory problems, concentration issues, light or noise sensitivity, vision issues, and other cognitive problems. With some people, these issues subside after several weeks, but medical research has shown that roughly 50% of people who have brain injuries end up with chronic problems that can last years. This lingering constellation of symptoms has been called post concussion syndrome.
POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME SYMPTOMS
When brain cells have been damaged, the brain reacts by setting into motion a process called metabolic cascading, which is a fancy term for the way the brain tries to heal itself or seal off the damaged areas from the healthy brain cells. Imagine if you bruise your arm, the body sets into motion a process for healing the damaged tissue and removing the blood and other products that cause the bruise. With the brain, the healing process a little different from the rest of the body. Imagine if you have left a pen in your shirt pocket that is leaking ink. Your shirt has a stain in it. You try to wash the stain out, but despite your best efforts, your shirt still has a faint stain. With the metabolic cascading in the injured brain, we see a similar process. Not all of the remaining metabolites that are sent in to try to help the brain heal will be removed, leaving behind some that continue to simulate cells within the brain which can make a person very sensitive to light, noise, too much stimulation, and also make it difficult to think clearly or remember things like you did before a brain injury. This remaining problem is what we believe gives raise to post concussion syndrome.
POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME TREATMENT
There are various treatments for post concussive syndrome, (PCS) including cognitive therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy and other interventions that may or may not help reduce the effects of PCS. All of these therapies try to take advantage of “brain plasticity”, which is the brains ability to utilize new or different neural pathways to perform tasks that the brain injured person is having difficulty with. Folks under the age of 40 who do these therapies seem to have a better response than those over 40, but even folks over 40 have the ability to see improvement, though it may come a little slower. If after 18 months the symptoms remain, it is thought that this is the point at which PCS is likely permanent or will see less improvement over time.