FAQs About Concussion

A head injury can range from minor to serious, and it's important that you are seen by an expert who knows how to guide you in your treatment (or whether treatment is needed). Here are some of the most common questions patients ask about mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs, or concussions).

How can I tell if a head injury is serious or not?

Any head injury, no matter how minor, has the potential to be serious, so when it doubt have it checked out. A temporary change in mental status (confusion, disorientation) is often a sign of concussion. Loss of consciousness is caused by the disruption of the long tracts that reach down into the brainstem and may signal a more serious injury. Find out more about brain and spine injuries.

My concussion was weeks ago! Why don't I feel better yet?

Concussions usually resolve without medical treatment within one to six weeks. Some people continue to feel the effects of the injury for longer than that, a condition known as post-concussion syndrome. Neuropsychologists can identify post-concussion difficulties that require intervention, along with the appropriate treatments. Find out more about Post-Concussion Syndrome.

What is the treatment for post-concussion syndrome (PCS)?

Treatment plans are as individual as you are, but neuropsychologists commonly use a technique called cognitive remediation to treat lingering problems with attention and memory in those with post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Research has indicated that cognitive remediation interventions that target problems of memory, processing speed, and attention lead to significant improvements in brain-injured populations. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy can help with the emotional aspects of PCS including increased irritability, difficulty with relationships and feeling anxious and low. More about Post-concussion Syndrome

What factors contribute to persisting concussion symptoms weeks or months after the injury?

Sometimes individuals with pre-existing conditions such as migraines, ADD, ADHD, learning disabilities and depression or anxiety can take longer to recover.  Symptoms within weeks of having a concussion can mimic attention deficit or depression.  Other pre-existing conditions that contribute to prolonged recovery include drug or alcohol abuse, poor diet and perhaps certain genetic mutations.

Sometimes people in our lives contribute to ongoing discomfort; they might do too much for you or not enough in your time of need.  Sometimes regular life stressors such as moving, losing a job or a relationship around the time of an injury can increase recovery time.  Additionally, sometimes people can behave in such a way that maintains disability such as completely avoiding activities they used to do; even as symptoms may start to improve.  Avoiding all activity for prolonged amounts of time is viewed as maintaining a “sick role”.  We call this a biopsychosocial phenomena meaning that biological processes interact with psychological and social functioning. 

More about Concussion and  Post-concussion Syndrome

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787