A Little Known Symptom of Concussions

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death from sports related injuries. Although there are many causes of TBI, it is most often associated with a direct blow to the head resulting in concussion. Concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. 21% of TBI in children and adolescents are due to sports and recreational activities, so don’t forget to insist that your skiers and snowboarders wear helmets. The better they are, the more they need it!

Although concussion symptoms often resolve in a few days, they may last much longer than most people realize. Common symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, light, sound, and smell sensitivity, and brain fog.

Up to 50% of people who sustain a TBI experience pseudo-bulbar affect (PBA). PBA is a condition where a person experiences outbursts of inappropriate crying or laughing. Episodes may or may not have a trigger, but are always out of proportion to the situation. Crying may occur without significant sadness which differentiates it from depression. Since the condition is so poorly known, even by physicians, it is often misdiagnosed as depression or panic attacks, especially if symptoms are mild. As you can imagine, PBA can create very significant stress and affect a person’s ability to function in school or work because outbursts usually come without warning.

In most cases, PBA resolves spontaneously, but may linger several years. Medication is available that can reduce symptoms.

A Case of PBA

Jacqueline Whitney (yes, Dr. Whitney’s 19-year-old daughter) underwent knee surgery in April, 2014. Immediately afterward it was evident that something was significantly wrong. The straight-A student couldn’t memorize school work, had difficulty with simple math, and could not read more than 20 minutes without getting a headache and extremely exhausted. Although she had experienced minor anxiety, Jacqueline began having “panic attacks”, which 2 ½ years later were identified to have been pseudo-bulbar affect (PBA).

It is not certain, but Jacqueline likely sustained a minor head injury while being transported in the hospital, resulting in her traumatic brain injury. A perfect storm of factors left her more susceptible to minor trauma.

The success in Jacqueline’s story comes in her perseverance and faith that this trial would open the door to other opportunities. Without question, the emotional stress has been grueling. Despite a very supportive school, Jacqueline had to drop out of high school in 11th grade.

With time and determination, Jacqueline is slowly improving and has managed to complete her GED. She started a blog, www.FindingMyVerse.com, in an effort to cope with her situation. The damage to her left brain caused her perceptive, creative right brain to blossom. It led to a widely popular Instagram @findingmyverse which has over 30K followers and has opened doors to many opportunities. Jacqueline’s ability to touch thousands of young lives in profound ways is inspiring and nothing short of miraculous!