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How long does post-concussion syndrome last?

July 12, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

Study shows post-concussion syndrome after a car crash may be permanent if recovery doesn’t occur within 3 years. 73% of people do not recover

Post-concussion syndrome

Hippocrates wisely said: “No head injury is too severe to despair of, nor too trivial to ignore.”

An important recent study drives home this point. I’m an auto accident attorney, and I’ve been helping people with post-concussion syndrome from car accidents for over 20 years. More importantly, I know the defense playbook when it comes to these injuries. Far too often, insurance company defense lawyers falsely minimize the significance of post-concussion syndrome. They use defense doctors who make vast amounts of money to do so-called independent medical examinations to claim that everybody gets better from post-concussion syndrome in a few weeks to several months. Those who do not miraculously improve are called “malingerers.”

This new study is further proof that not every car crash victim who suffers post-concussion syndrome will recover.

Specifically, in their investigation into post-concussion syndrome long term effects, which was reported in the Journal of Neurotrauma, researchers at the University of Toronto found that:

  • Post-concussion syndrome “may be permanent if recovery has not occurred by 3 years.”
  • There is no recovery for 73% of post-concussion syndrome sufferers.

This is important news for motor vehicle accident victims and auto accident attorneys like me and my colleagues at Michigan.

Not only are car accidents the 3rd leading cause of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths, according to the CDC. (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, “Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion,” “TBI: Get the Facts,” last updated April 27, 2017)

This study takes the legs out from under the baseless, misleading legal arguments that I see insurance company lawyers making so often in the courtroom that everyone with post-concussion syndrome should recover in several weeks to 3 months:

Post-concussion syndrome is a serious, debilitating condition that doesn’t just disappear with the passage of time.

What is a car crash victim’s chances of post-concussion syndrome recovery?

The study, “Longitudinal Study of Postconcussion Syndrome: Not Everyone Recovers,” which was conducted by the University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital and Canadian Concussion Center, and was published in the April 15, 2017, issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma found the following:

  • For post-concussion syndrome sufferers (people diagnosed with PCS based on having at least one symptom) who didn’t recover in less than 3 months and who didn’t have brain injury-positive diagnostic testing, “only 27% … eventually recovered and 67% of those who recovered did so within the first year.”
  • No PCS sufferers “recovered from PCS lasting 3 years or longer … PCS may be permanent if recovery has not occurred by 3 years.”
  • “The finding that PCS may be permanent if it lasts longer than 3 years suggests that it may be critical to treat PCS appropriately in the early stages.”
  • “[T]he more [PCS] symptoms reported, the longer the time to recovery … with each additional [PCS] symptom reducing the recovery rate by approximately 20%.”

The people evaluated in the study were post-concussion syndrome sufferers who: (1) didn’t have brain-injury positive diagnostic testing; (2) were diagnosed with PCS based on having at least one symptom; and (3) didn’t fully recover within the first 3 months.

What are the main post-concussion syndrome symptoms?

The University of Toronto study reported on in the Journal of Neurotrauma noted that the “most common” “symptoms experienced by PCS sufferers” were “headaches, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.”

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