What is postconcussive syndrome (PCS)?

Updated: Jul 25, 2019
  • Author: Roy H Lubit, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Closed head injuries frequently occur in car accidents, contact sports, structural collapse, and assaults. Any alteration of consciousness is sufficient to diagnose a concussion. Although most people fully recover, some have serious disability. Traumatic brain injury can lead to deficits in 6 general areas: (1) short-term memory impairment, (2) slowed processing speed, (3) impaired executive function, (4) disrupted abilities of attention and concentration (which likely contributes to the deficits noted in the first 3 categories), (5) emotional dysregulation, and (6) disrupted sleep, as well as persistent headaches and periodic dizziness.

Research on high school football players has shown that even without clinically observed symptoms of concussion, blows to the head can lead to demonstrated measurable neurocognitive (primarily visual working memory) and neurophysiologic (altered activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) impairments. [8]

In a prospective 11-year study by Lincoln et al that aimed to understand the risks of sports-related concussion among 12 scholastic sports, football and boys’ lacrosse had the highest number of concussions. [9] Concussions are not, however, limited to football and lacrosse. Practice sessions in soccer (e.g., heading the ball) can cause alterations in consciousness and hence concussions. Twenty percent of athletes in football, soccer, and lacrosse suffer concussions each year. Detection, treatment, and prevention should be across all sports.

Separating neurologically based symptoms from psychologically based symptoms such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is important since both affect concentration and sleep, and either can occur in accidents.

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