Concussions can be categorized under five main subtypes: headache/migraine, vestibular, cognitive, ocular-motor, and anxiety/mood. Each may also be accompanied by two associated conditions (cervical strain and sleep disturbance).
Someone who has suffered a concussion can have one or more types of concussions and experience multiple symptoms.
Watch out for symptoms of a concussion (also known as a mild traumatic brain injury) after a car accident. A person doesn’t have to lose consciousness or hit their head to suffer a brain injury. The force of a collision is sometimes enough to jostle the brain or cause it to hit the inside of the skull.
Brain injuries, even those labeled “mild”, are serious and should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Concussions can have long-term consequences even if a person recovers soon after.
Talk to one of our Atlanta car accident lawyers if you or a loved one have suffered a moderate or severe concussion due to a crash.
Headaches and migraines are the most common symptom reported by both children and adults after a head injury. Migraines are a more intense type of headache characterized by painful auras, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. Individuals who often experience headaches or migraines may find their condition worsens following a concussion.
Headaches and migraines already interfere in many people’s daily lives — for them to increase in severity or frequency can drastically reduce their quality of life further. The headache/migraine subtype of concussion can make it difficult for car accident victims to remember what happened, handle car insurance issues, or get back to work and be productive.
The vestibular function refers to the vestibule of the inner ear and its effect on a person’s sense of balance as they move. When this system is damaged due to a concussion, symptoms may include:
- Loss of balance
The vestibular subtype of concussion often interferes with dynamic movement, causing imbalance and uneven, stuttered body control. Neurocognitive testing may also reveal feelings of anxiety due to the disorientation and lack of ability to move normally.
The cognitive subtype of concussion refers to the disruption of mental abilities. After a head injury, especially due to a motor vehicle accident, an injured victim may experience an altered attention span, impaired reaction time, reduced processing speed, impaired memory storage or retrieval, difficulty learning new things, or disorganized thoughts and behaviors.
In other words, someone suffering from a cognitive concussion will have trouble thinking, learning, and remembering things throughout the day or over time. This can cause both mental fatigue and intense frustration.
Concussions can also affect the visual system. The ocular-motor subtype involves the interruption or impairment of a person’s eyesight, eye focusing, eye movement, and visual perception.
Damage to this system can cause difficulty in obtaining, understanding, and processing visual information. A person may have difficulty following motions (smooth pursuit), looking in the same direction with both eyes (conjugate gaze), narrowing the gaze to a point in front (convergence), or shifting focus from distant to near objects (accommodation).
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if a concussion injury is an ocular-motor dysfunction or a cognitive or vestibular impairment. Symptoms of an ocular-motor concussion may include:
- Blurred/double vision
- Difficulty assessing distances
- Difficulty engaging with visual activities (looking at screens, reading, driving, etc)
- Difficulty handling complex visual environments
- Eye strain/fatigue
- Frontal headaches
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Pressure/pain behind the eyes
- Problems with visual focus (near to far or far to near)
- Sight-based nausea
An increased inability to concentrate on written work, screens, or the environment around oneself can negatively impact a person’s independence, job status, and quality of life. Talk to your primary care doctor if you’re having trouble seeing or feeling pain in and around your eyes so that they can refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
Anxiety after a concussion can be triggered by a variety of factors, both as a psychological response to one’s injuries and from physical damage in the brain. The anxiety/mood subtype of concussion can feature the following symptoms:
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling more emotional
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Increased vigilance
- Loss of energy
These symptoms may be exacerbated if the injured victim has a history of depression, anxiety, or migraines. Anxiety concussions are often accompanied by sleep disturbance. Physical inactivity and social isolation may trigger or worsen symptoms — physical exertion can sometimes counteract this.
Cervical Strain and Sleep Disturbances
There are two secondary conditions associated with concussions but do not occur in isolation: cervical strain and sleep disturbances.
A cervical strain refers to when a head injury results in neck pain, neck stiffness, weakness in the neck or shoulders, and persistent headache. Injury to the neck can lead to signal confusion along neural pathways that coordinate reflexes, vision, and balance.
A cervical strain may also be referred to as whiplash. It is important that the injury is treated appropriately, especially if it’s related to a concussion.
Concussion victims experiencing sleep disturbance have trouble going to or staying asleep, resulting in excessive sleepiness, napping but not waking up refreshed, difficulty waking up, waking up confused, or insomnia.
Sleep disturbances arise from the brain injury itself. If a person was having trouble with sleep prior to a concussion, it can make their recovery more difficult and take longer.
Who Is Most At-Risk for Developing a Concussion?
Although anyone can suffer a concussion due to a car accident or other traumatic event, studies have found that certain groups of people are more susceptible. You have a higher risk of suffering a moderate or severe concussion if:
- You have experience previous concussions or head injuries.
- You suffer from migraines.
- You have a learning disability or ADD/ADHD.
- You are above the age of 40.
- You are female.
- You have depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
- You are from a lower-income background and less educated.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have suffered a concussion after a car accident, they need to see an emergency care physician immediately if they were not taken to the hospital from the scene of the crash. Traumatic brain injuries can have serious long-term consequences if left unmonitored and untreated.