BRAIN STRAIN: Study reveals people with concussions are more likely to suffer cognitive impairment or decline
12/12/2022 // Zoey Sky // Views

According to a study published in the journal Neurology, people who have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have a higher risk of experiencing cognitive impairment, cognitive decline or both compared to those without any injuries.

Researchers who conducted the study reported that individuals with poor cognitive outcomes were also more likely to develop other symptoms like anxiety and lower satisfaction with life.

Dr. Raquel Gardner, a study author from the University of California San Francisco, said that the findings suggest that "clinically meaningful poor cognitive outcomes," such as cognitive impairment and cognitive decline, may be more common than initially believed one year after suffering a concussion. (Related: Exercising after receiving a concussion can speed up recovery time.)

Concussions and brain health

During the study, the research team observed 656 volunteers who had been admitted to trauma center emergency rooms with concussions and 156 healthy volunteers without head injuries.

The average age of the volunteers was 40 and they were given up to three neurological evaluations after their injury: after two weeks, six months and one year.

Each of the evaluations provided five scores from three tests of recall, language skills and other cognitive domains.

The researchers defined poor cognitive outcome as "satisfying the criteria for cognitive impairment, cognitive decline, or both." Cognitive impairment was defined as "lower-than-expected performance on at least two cognitive tests," like one processing speed test and one memory test. Meanwhile, cognitive decline was defined as "clinically meaningful decline on at least two cognitive tests."


Results showed that:

  • 86 out of 656 volunteers with mild brain injuries or 14 percent had poor cognitive outcomes one year later.
  • Out of the 86 volunteers, at least 10 percent had cognitive impairment only, two percent had cognitive decline only and two percent had both.
  • Out of the 156 volunteers without concussions, only eight had poor cognitive outcomes one year later.
  • Out of the healthy volunteers, three percent had cognitive impairment, none had cognitive decline and only one percent had both.

Brain injuries and cognitive outcomes

The researchers also discovered that the participants who "had depression before their injury, had no health insurance or had a high school education or less" were more inclined to have a poor cognitive outcome than others who were not depressed before the injury, had insurance or received more than a high school education.

According to the results, the volunteers who had better cognitive outcomes were more inclined to have higher life satisfaction one year after their concussion.

The life satisfaction test given to the volunteers ranges in score from five to 35. The lower scores indicate lower life satisfaction.

The volunteers with better cognitive outcomes scored an average of 26 on the test. Meanwhile, those with poor cognitive outcomes scored an average of 21.

It is worth noting that the study doesn't prove that individuals with concussions will have worse cognitive outcomes one year later, but it hints at a possible association.

Gardner explained that based on earlier studies of people with moderate to severe brain injuries, early, intensive rehabilitation can improve patients' cognitive outcomes over time. She added that further study will help shed more light on the role of cognitive rehabilitation for individuals with mild brain injuries who are also at risk for poor cognitive outcomes, and how to predict who falls into this risk category.

One limitation of the study is that those enrolled at the time of their concussion and their cognitive health before the injury were not known.

If you or someone you love suffers from a concussion, make sure you get some rest. Limit your use of electronics like your phone, computer or TV. Concussions can cause nausea and vomiting, so drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.

Visit to learn how to boost your cognitive health.

Watch the video below for tips on how to stay productive while recovering from a concussion.

This video is from the Health and Wellness channel on

More related stories:

A new type of magnetic stimulation helps reverse concussion symptoms, study find.

High-intensity training found to significantly improve stroke survivors’ walking ability.

Supplemental nutrition found to treat brain injury better than prescriptions, and may even provide some protection against injury.

Sources include:

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