My concussion occurred nearly two years ago when I fell down the last four steps of my home. My symptoms were delayed at first after one week I became aware of my inability to focus, remember, speak and see clearly, and make any sort of decision. My light and sound sensitivity became more and more extreme with each day. It was at this point that I took myself to the ER in total confusion.  Three months after my fall, with little improvement and additional symptoms occurring, my doctor referred me to the UVM Medical Center Post Concussion Clinic for post- concussion syndrome rehabilitation.”

This patient story, one of many similar stories, is an important cautionary tale when it comes to know the symptoms of concussion and post-concussion syndrome.

Concussion symptoms may include physical symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise; cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty with memory or concentration; emotional symptoms, such as irritability or sadness; or sleep disturbances. For the majority of people, all or most of these symptoms resolve within a few days to about two or four weeks.

The majority (80–90 percent) of concussions resolve in a short (1-4 weeks) period, however, the recovery time frame may be longer in children and adolescents.  People with diagnosed concussion are more at risk for a repeat concussion in the first 10 days after an initial concussion.

The treatment for concussion is rest (physical and mental), avoiding a second concussion during your recovery, and gradually getting back into school or work and physical activity with the help of your health care provider.

Post- Concussion Syndrome: what happens when concussion symptoms persist?

When a person with concussion has symptoms that persist for more than a few weeks their concussion may have transitioned to “Post-Concussion Syndrome.”  These symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches, light sensitivity
  • Difficulty with memory or on centration or sleep
  • Emotional changes: sadness, irritability

What do I do next?

PCS can be difficult to diagnose.  Some of the symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as depression, chronic pain, and post- traumatic stress disorder.

Contact your doctor and he/she will help determine if you need to be referred to “Post Concussion Clinic.”  Typically, patients are referred to post concussion clinic with symptoms that persist 3-4 weeks after injury.

What is “Post Concussion Clinic”?

At Post Concussion Clinic your first visit will consist of an evaluation, education, discussion of the symptoms you are having and different treatment options. These may include modification of your activity, medication, and/or referral to other therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical psychology, or speech-language pathology.

How to Make an Appointment

Have your primary care physician make a referral to Post Concussion Clinic if your symptoms continue 3-4 weeks after concussion. Appointments may be made by calling 802-847-0318.

How did the story end?

“In the past 6 months my recovery has made progress in leaps and bounds. I have had to rest to heal from injury and have needed to process new learning, these have been keys. My kids point out the tiny improvement that I don’t notice and that is huge fuel for my fire. I am super hopeful for even more recovery with my continued dedication to finding my new way, with this different brain, that is as fulfilling as my old way of being in the world.”

Raiel Barlow, MD, is a Physiatrist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Assistant Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM; Suzanne Lawrence, PT, is a Rehabilitation Therapy Clinical Research Educator at Inpatient Rehabilitation Center; Kim Doubleday, is an Administrative Assistant at the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center.

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