While the majority of people who experience a concussion recover relatively quickly, some live with symptoms for weeks and even months after their injury. This is called post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a condition affecting between 5 and 43 percent of individuals who experience a concussion.
Currently, individuals with PCS are given little idea how quickly they can expect to recover. However, researchers from the Krembil Neuroscience Centre’s (KNC) Canadian Concussion Centre (CCC) say they have developed a model that can be used to predict how quickly and how fully a recovery a person with PCS may see.
For the study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, the team investigated patterns based on the symptomology of 110 patients with post-concussion syndrome.
Using this data, the team found that the overall number of symptoms a person with PCS experiences was strongly related to their potential for a quick and more full recovery. Those with minimal symptoms were more likely to see a complete recovery and healed more quickly than those with ten or more symptoms.
“These findings flag that the presence of multiple symptoms with PCS may indicate a prolonged illness,” said Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon and director of the CCC who led the study.
“Although more research is needed, based on these findings I would encourage health practitioners to pay attention to the multiplicity of symptoms in PCS patients and vigorously treat as many of them as possible to increase chances of recovery.”
The results showed that athletes with post-concussion syndrome who resumed playing sports against medical recommendations were less likely to recover.
The findings also highlighted a few interesting links between particular symptoms of a brain injury. For example, those who experienced anxiety were significantly more likely to report depression. However, it is unclear why exactly these relationships exist.
While the majority of people with PCS in the study recovered, the team observed that those who experienced symptoms for more than three years did not make a full recovery. If this is confirmed in further research, it may mean there is a definitive recovery period for the condition.
“There is such a wide range of recovery among PCS sufferers that further investigation is necessary to better understand the condition,” Tator said. “Once we can better characterize this phase of concussion injury, we hope that will help us determine whether there is also a link with CTE.”
For now, the team says it will continue to track the study participants for at least another 10 years to see what more long-term patterns develop.