A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can occur after head trauma. While most symptoms resolve within a few weeks, some people experience long-term effects of concussions as a result of post-concussion syndrome.

The effects of a concussion can be subtle, like difficulty concentrating, headaches or migraines, and fatigue, or more pronounced, like obvious personality changes and memory loss.

Repetitive brain injuries put you in a higher risk category for long-term effects. Multiple concussions can also result in a dangerous progressive brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

It’s important to understand what persistent post-concussive symptoms look like, especially if you’ve had more than one concussion, and how to get the help you need.

1. Memory Problems

What are the cognitive and psychological effects of multiple concussions over time? Cognitive and psychological effects of multiple concussions over time include problems thinking, remembering, and controlling your behavior.

Memory loss, brain fog, and challenges recalling events or information are common long-term effects of concussions. In rare cases, a severe concussion can result in a loss of consciousness, slurred speech, and a period of amnesia.

Long-term memory problems are more common with CTE patients due to repeated disruptions to neural pathways in brain cells. Severe damage to parts of the brain responsible for those cognitive functions can also cause long-term memory deficits and cognitive impairment.

2. Difficulty Concentrating

The trauma from a concussion can disrupt normal brain function and affect your ability to concentrate and focus. Persistent headaches, dizziness, and fatigue in long-term concussion patients can also make it difficult to complete daily tasks related to work and school.

The severity of these long-term concussion symptoms depends on the damage involved. Mental health concerns like stress, anxiety, or depression that arise as a result of these symptoms can make it even more difficult to bounce back from brain-related symptoms.

3. Personality Changes

Behavioral changes can happen when a head injury affects parts of the brain responsible for emotions, behavior, and personality traits.

Loved ones may notice changes in concussion patients before you do, and changes in behavior or mood may not happen until years, even decades, after the initial head trauma.

Personality changes that may occur as symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Problems planning or multi-tasking
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

Cognitive therapies, or cognitive rehabilitation therapy, may be supportive in addressing not only behavioral changes, but difficulties with memory and attention in long-term concussion patients.

4. Parkinson’s Disease

Suffering a concussion can increase your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. This includes both CTE and mild TBI from a single concussion. There may be a few different reasons for this. 

Concussions may affect normal blood flow to the brain and disrupt brain structures involved in movement and nervous system responses. 

Depending on the severity of the trauma, your body can also have lasting effects from an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress on the brain. Individuals with Parkinson’s are more likely to have high levels of inflammation in the brain than those without the disease.  

5. Alzheimer’s Disease

People with a history of concussions are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Much like Parkinson’s, inflammatory responses in the brain following head trauma can trigger changes in brain function connected to progressive brain disorders like Alzheimer’s.

This can accelerate existing memory problems, personality changes, and persistent confusion, difficulty concentrating, and brain fog associated with long-term concussion symptoms.

6. Sleep Disturbances

Sleep problems are one of the most common concussion long-term effects. Concussions disrupt normal sleep patterns when a brain trauma affects neurons involved in sleep-wake cycles. Additional symptoms like bad headaches and body pain may also interfere with your sleep.

Long-term sleep issues can have lasting effects on not only your natural concussion recovery, but overall wellness. Chronic sleep problems are linked to an increase in stress and anxiety that make it harder for your brain to rest and reset following trauma. 

Insomnia can also impair coordination and motor function, increase risk of accidents and, as a result, contribute to future concussions. 

7. Smell and Taste Problems

Loss of smell, also known as anosmia or smell blindness, is a common symptom of head trauma. A blow to the head can damage the olfactory nerves responsible for sending smell signals from your nose to your brain. Persistent brain inflammation after the fact can exacerbate the issue.

While smell dysfunction typically resolves itself within a few months, it can persist in some patients for years. The severity and duration is directly related to the severity of your injury.

A concussion can also cause taste dysfunction, or hypogeusia, and a bad taste in your mouth, or dysgeusia. The same receptors responsible for smell are connected to taste.

Concussions vs. TBI vs. CTE

A concussion occurs when you suffer a head injury. Common risk factors for concussions are contact sports like football or ice hockey, whiplash following a car accident, or falls. 

These kinds of concussions are often referred to as mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Moderate to severe TBI can be life-threatening with worse outcomes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of moderate to severe TBI patients report worsened symptoms five years after the initial head trauma.

Even mild TBIs can cause long-term issues, though, and affect a person’s ability to return to work, school, and daily tasks.

CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive brain injuries. It accounts for many of the long-term effects of concussions. It’s become a much-talked about condition in the NFL and sports medicine due to the increasing number of American football players with CTE.

Do former football players age faster? Former football players may age faster in terms of dementia risk and other age-related chronic conditions. 

That said, CTE symptoms can happen to anyone with a history of repeated head impacts. 


Short-term concussion symptoms include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise, tinnitus, blurred vision, and temporary memory loss. 

Post-concussion syndrome is not very common in patients with a single concussion. Studies show it can affect up to about a quarter of concussion patients. The risk of long-term consequences goes up with repeated concussions, including sports-related concussions.

Long-term cognitive deficits associated with multiple concussions include challenges with memory, attention deficits, and sensory problems. CTE in particular can increase your risk of accelerated cognitive decline and behavioral changes.

Post-concussion syndrome can be permanent in rare cases, but most people recover from even long-term symptoms. Risk factors for permanent brain damage become more pronounced with CTE or more dangerous forms of concussions.

The best way to treat a concussion is through mental and physical rest and a gradual return to your daily activities, including physical activity. Prevent multiple incidences of concussions by avoiding scenarios that involve head-to-head contact as best you can.

It’s also important to see medical attention from relevant healthcare providers following a TBI. You may need additional diagnostics or the support of a medical professional like a neurologist to address the root of your symptoms.

Dietary changes, all-natural painkillers, and upper cervical care can also provide you with some relief. 

Upper cervical care may correct spinal misalignments that lead to a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid. This is a common cause of spinal headaches, migraines, and post-concussion syndrome. 

If you’re experiencing long-term concussion effects and live in the Denver area, call Denver Upper Cervical Care at 303-955-8270 or set up an appointment. We work with patients to diagnose and treat spine-related problems that include post-concussion syndrome.

  1. Baugh, C. M., Stamm, J. M., Riley, D. O., Gavett, B. E., Shenton, M. E., Lin, A., … & Stern, R. A. (2012). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: neurodegeneration following repetitive concussive and subconcussive brain trauma. Brain imaging and behavior, 6(2), 244-254. Full text: http://sites.bu.edu/mckeelab/files/2014/06/Chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy-neurodegeneration-following-repetitive-concussive-and-subconcussive-brain-trauma1.pdf
  2. Ivancevic, V. G. (2009). New mechanics of traumatic brain injury. Cognitive neurodynamics, 3(3), 281. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2727160/
  3. McAllister, T. & McCrea, M. (2017). Long-term cognitive and neuropsychiatric consequences of repetitive concussion and head-impact exposure. Journal of Athletic Training, 52(3), 309-317. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28387556/
  4. Cole, W. R., & Bailie, J. M. (2016). Neurocognitive and psychiatric symptoms following mild traumatic brain injury. In Translational research in traumatic brain injury. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Group. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK326715/
  5. Gardner, R. C., Byers, A. L., Barnes, D. E., Li, Y., Boscardin, J., & Yaffe, K. (2018). Mild TBI and risk of Parkinson disease: a chronic effects of neurotrauma consortium study. Neurology, 90(20), e1771-e1779. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5957305/
  6. Ramos-Cejudo, J., Wisniewski, T., Marmar, C., Zetterberg, H., Blennow, K., de Leon, M. J., & Fossati, S. (2018). Traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease: the cerebrovascular link. EBioMedicine, 28, 21-30. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5835563/
  7. Morse, A. M., & Kothare, S. V. (2018). Sleep disorders and concussion. In Handbook of clinical neurology (Vol. 158, pp. 127-134). Elsevier. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30482340
  8. Howell, J., Costanzo, R. M., & Reiter, E. R. (2018). Head trauma and olfactory function. World journal of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery, 4(1), 39-45. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6051255/
  9. Macolino, C. M., Daiutolo, B. V., Tyburski, A. L., & Elliot, M. B. (2014). Inflammation in the pain pathway in a model of mild closed head injury: Implications for post-concussion headache. Full text: https://jdc.jefferson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1064&context=neurosurgeryfp
  10. Schofield, P.W. & Doty, R.L. (2019). The influence of head injury on olfactory and gustatory function. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 164, 409-429. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31604560/
  11. McKee, A. C., Cantu, R. C., Nowinski, C. J., Hedley-Whyte, E. T., Gavett, B. E., Budson, A. E., … & Stern, R. A. (2009). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes: progressive tauopathy after repetitive head injury. Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, 68(7), 709-735. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945234/
  12. Halstead, M.E., Walter, K.D., & Moffatt K. (2018). Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 142(6), e20183074. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30420472/
  13. Zetterberg, H., Smith, D. H., & Blennow, K. (2013). Biomarkers of mild traumatic brain injury in cerebrospinal fluid and blood. Nature Reviews Neurology, 9(4), 201. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4513656/