The Emotional Consequences of Concussion

Lots of rest, sleep, and reduced stress is crucial for a child recovering from a mild TBI. The more parents know about the symptoms, the better.

[Jeffrey Barth, PhD, ABPP-CN - Director, Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute University of Virginia School of Medicine] There are oftentimes emotional sequelae related to or consequences of mild head injury and concussion. In sports we don't see it as often, immediately following a blow if it's one single concussion. However, it still can occur there, and actually after multiple concussions, it's very common. What are those consequences? Well, they are irritability that can relate to depression and often fatigue that's associated with that as well. Some people would say you can have the same types of emotional reactions to a concussion that you see in post-traumatic stress disorder. At the high school and college level, again, what we mostly find is the irritability and so on. These people become kind of grouchy and stressed. Of course, the way to treat that is reduce the stress, so we of course don't recommend that people go right back to exercise again. We titrate that in or bring it in slowly. We also try to work with school systems, for example, to reduce the curricular load a little bit, and make people aware that this person has had an injury, even though they look perfectly normal and are acting perfectly normally, and give them time to recover. If we talk about those recovery curves of 5 to 10 days typically, they should be over it relatively quickly. Sometimes though, that irritability lasts for awhile. Again, with our younger players, as I said, this can go for 6 to 10 times longer. That should be just watched by the parents and, again, reduce stress, get plenty of rest. Sleep is really good for those sorts of things.
Posted on BrainLine July 29, 2010. Reviewed December 20, 2017.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.