Head injuries are particularly worrisome for a number of reasons—especially ones that result in traumatic brain injuries. Not only are these injuries highly dangerous in the short term, but they may have devastating long-term effects.
What are the long-term effects of a head injury? How likely is a head injury to cause a long-lasting effect? These are just a few of the questions about these traumatic injuries that both the injured and their loved ones have to consider.
While this won’t be a perfectly comprehensive list, here are some of the facts about the long-term effects of a head injury:
1: Some Effects May Last Your Entire Life
Depending on the nature of the injury, its severity, treatment received, and many other factors, a head wound can result in permanent brain damage that causes an impairment lasting the rest of your natural life.
However, this isn’t a guarantee. Recovery from long-term head injury effects can and does happen.
2: Every Head Injury Case is Unique
According to CDC estimates, there are roughly 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. each year. Yet, every severe head injury case is unique in some way. The amount of force applied to the head, the location of the impact, the direction of force, the health of the injured, timing/quality of treatment, and an untold number of other factors can all contribute to the nature and severity of the long-term effects of the injury, as well as the odds of recovery.
This is what makes it so difficult to be sure of the long-term effects you may experience following a head injury—or how long they may last. Doctors and specialists may need to perform months of analysis to establish the full extent of your injuries, your likelihood of recovery, and what the long-term effects will be.
3: The Different Kinds of Effects That May Occur Will Vary
The specific effects may vary from case to case, but some traumatic head injury long-term effects include:
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Impaired language skills
- Coma/loss of consciousness
- Loss of sensation in the body’s extremities (fingers, toes, etc.)
- Increased risk of stroke/seizure
- Impaired cognitive function
- Loss of balance
- Partial paralysis
- Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other degenerative conditions
This list is far from comprehensive, covering only a fraction of the potential long-term conditions that may arise from a head injury.
4: Some Long-Term Effects May Become More Severe
Some long-term side effects caused by a head injury may worsen. This could be due to the slow degradation of brain cells over time or because of complications from interactions with new injuries or medical conditions.
For example, a person with a head injury may later experience a seizure which, in turn, causes further damage to the brain. Or, a future blow to the head may cause an open head wound that allows bacteria to get past the protective tissues surrounding the brain (the meninges) and cause further complications.
This is why it is important for both those who have experienced a severe head injury and their loved ones to remain vigilant. Not only should the caretaker of a person with a head injury-related condition be watchful for signs that the effects are getting worse, the injured person should undergo frequent examination from a head or brain injury rehabilitation specialist.
5: The Different Kinds of Head Injuries That May Cause Long-Term Effects
Generally speaking, there are three kinds of head injuries that may lead to TBI and its long-term effects:
- Closed Head Injuries. The most common head injuries are closed-head injuries. These leave no visible bleeding or open wounds, and usually involve the head moving rapidly in more than one direction—resulting in the brain twisting or colliding against the inside of the skull. This may cause internal bleeding or damage to nerve fibers.
- Open Wound Injuries. Also called penetrating brain injuries, these injuries are characterized by open wounds that may risk exposure of the brain to external conditions through a break in the skull. These wounds are externally more graphic than closed head injuries, but if damage is limited to one area, the prognosis may actually be better.
- Crushing Injuries. When the brain is compressed between two objects, it is called a crushing injury. These injuries can result in severe trauma to the base of the skull or neck as well as the brain. Common short-term effects include severe bleeding and skull fractures.
Each of these head injury types can cause severe, long-lasting effects.
With over a million traumatic brain injuries occurring each year in the U.S., it’s vital for everyone to be as informed as possible about the potential effects of long-term brain injuries and how to cope with them.
So, please, help raise awareness about brain and spinal cord injuries, be there for your loved ones, and learn more by reading our brain injuries page or using the live chat box at the top of the screen!
Written by Spinal Cord TeamSpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.
See what Swope, Rodante Has Done for Others With Catastrophic Injuries
“What made me most excited was to be able to help my family, being able to pull the burden out of them that they’ve been struggling with. That’s what made me feel the best. Everything else to come, is to come. And we’re going to live life how we have been, just not going to have to worry about buying the supplies that I need.”
"As I got better, which I did in the future, I think I remember researching them [Swope, Rodante P.A.] myself and found that they are very good at what they do. "