Post-concussion syndrome (also called persistent post-concussion symptoms) describes a group of symptoms following a brain injury (concussion) that last longer than the normal expected time frame for recovery.
Post-concussion syndrome may be considered a disability, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Generally, a mild concussion does not qualify a person for disability benefits, but some people who suffer mild concussions (traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs) are approved for disability under a medical-vocational allowance.
The Social Security Administration disability listing for traumatic brain injury (TBI) under neurological disorders (listing 11.18) describes some symptoms that may occur with post-concussion syndrome.
To qualify for disability benefits under this listing, medical records must document that you either:
- are unable to control the movement of at least two of your extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs), for at least three consecutive months after the injury. This must result in extreme difficulty in balancing while standing or walking, standing up from a seated position, or using your arms.
- have “marked” physical problems along with a “marked” limitation (for at least three months post-injury) in any one of the following areas:
- thinking (problems understanding, remembering, or using instructions or other information)
- finishing tasks (problems with concentration, persistence, or speed)
- regulating emotions and controlling behavior (problems with responding to demands, adapting to changes, or being aware of normal hazards), and/or
- interacting with others (problems with socially appropriate behavior).
In order to qualify for disability benefits, patients must provide documentation of all medical treatment and limitations that result from the post-concussion syndrome. The more evidence a person can provide about how the condition limits their ability to work, the better the chances are to qualify for disability benefits. Documentation may include:
- Emergency room records
- Notes from doctors' visits
- Counselor or caseworker notes
- Results of X-rays, MRIs, and other tests
- Neuropsychological testing or IQ testing
- Written statements from friends, family members, or former employers
- Any documentation of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What Are Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include:
- Headache (most common)
- Neck pain
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Balance problems
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Vision problems
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Problems paying attention
- Problems thinking clearly
- Memory problems
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Feeling mentally slowed
- Reduced tolerance to stress, emotional excitement, or alcohol
- Decreased taste and smell (rare)
What Causes Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Post-concussion syndrome is caused by a concussion, which is a type of brain injury. When concussion symptoms do not go away after a normal recovery time, it is considered post-concussion syndrome.
Causes of concussions include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Injuries from contact sports such as football, ice hockey, soccer, and boxing
- Combat injuries such as from blasts and bullet wounds
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