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What are Subconcussions & How is it Treated? | Causes, Symptoms and Prevention of Subconcussions

What are Subconcussions?

Subconcussions are the type of traumatic brain injury that do not cause immediate brain symptoms. Injuries involved in it are silent or invisible injuries, the ones which do not get noticed or are not detected by traditional imaging tests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, subconcussions are head impacts that cause sudden brain movements without causing any neurological symptoms.(1)

Subconcussions can occur due to a variety of sports activities such as football, soccer, hockey, and boxing. They can also occur due to repetitive head concussions. They may not lead to immediate symptoms but the subconcussive hits may over time lead to cumulative brain damage. It can also increase the risk of long-term cognitive and neurological problems.

The long-term effects of subconcussions are still being researched due to concerns about the associated risks.

It is important to have an understanding of subconcussions as it can help people who engage in activities that risk head impacts and help them make informed understanding about their participation and take steps to minimize the risk of injury. It can also be helpful for the healthcare professional in making decisions for the treatment of subconcussions and preventing long-term brain damage.

Causes of Subconcussions

There are numerous activities that can lead to subconcussions. These involve jarring and shaking of the head due to the following:

  • Contact Sports: Repetitive impact to the head with sports like football, soccer, and hockey.
  • Falls: Falling from height or slipping and falling can cause jarring or shaking of the head leading to subconcussions.
  • Car Accidents: Motor vehicle accidents can cause a jolt to the head causing subconcussions.
  • Thrill Rides: Roller coasters and other thrill rides involve sudden acceleration and deceleration leading to subconcussions.
  • Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves hitting and shaking of the head causes subconcussions.

According to a 2022 review, the risk factors for subconcussions involve:(2)

  • Participation in sports activities
  • Car crashes
  • Assaults

Being aware of the potential for subconcussions is important as it can help in taking appropriate precautions, especially in high-risk activities.

Symptoms of Subconcussions

Subconcussions may not produce immediate symptoms but can still cause changes in the brain that may have long-term consequences.

  • Physical Symptoms: The physical symptoms of subconcussions include headache, vertigo, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, fatigue or lethargy, ringing in ears, slurred speech, blurred vision, and problems with balance.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: People with subconcussions may experience cognitive symptoms including difficulty in concentrating or focusing, memory problems, confusion or disorientation, slowed thinking or processing speed, decreased attention, impaired judgment, and changes in behavior and personality. These symptoms may be similar to other injuries. It is therefore important to seek medical attention for appropriate treatment.
  • Emotional Symptoms: Some individuals also experience emotional symptoms in subconcussions. There are mood swings including irritability, anxiety, depression, confusion, and difficulty with memory. The inability to regulate emotions may lead to outbursts of anger, laughter, or crying. There may be emotional numbness and apathy. A person may avoid situations and isolate themselves due to the fear of triggering symptoms or feeling overwhelmed.

Subconcussions can also cause a change in sleeping patterns. A person may experience more or less sleep than usual due to subconcussions.

Diagnosis of Subconcussions

Diagnosing subconcusssions can be challenging as the symptom do not appear immediately. However, there are several methods that can be used in the diagnosis of subconcussions.

  • Medical History: The doctor may take the entire medical history of a person which includes the history of any trauma or hit.
  • Physical Examination: The person is examined to look for any neurological symptoms and deficits.
  • Neurological Testing: Neurological testing is performed to assess cognitive function, memory, attention, and other brain functions.
  • Imaging Test: CT scan and MRI scan are done to look for structural damage to the brain.
  • Balance and Vestibular Testing: To assess a person’s ability to maintain, balance and vestibular testing may be used. It helps in detecting issues with the inner ear or visual processing.

Seeking medical attention is important if subconcussions or head injury is suspected. It helps in determining appropriate treatment and recommendations for recovery.

Treatment of Subconcussions

There is no specific treatment for subconcussions. Measures can be taken for symptom management and promoting healing.


Rest is important for the healing of the brain. Activities that exacerbate the symptoms such as loud noise, screen time, and physical exercise should be avoided.

Pain Management

Over-the-counter pain medications including Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen can be helpful in alleviating headaches and associated pains.

Cognitive Test

It involves avoiding mentally stressing activities that can exacerbate the symptoms such as reading, working on a computer, or engaging in social media.


Rehabilitation can be helpful in promoting recovery. It includes occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy.

It is important to monitor the symptoms and seek medical attention if there is a worsening of the symptoms. Also, to prevent further subconcussions, wearing headgear and practicing safe driving habits are important.

Prevention of Subconcussions

  • Completely eliminating the risk of subconcussions is not possible, still, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of its occurrence.
  • Wear protective gear such as helmets, mouthguards, and padding while engaging in high-risk activities such as contact sports or riding a bike.
  • Practice safe driving habits and follow traffic rules. This can reduce the risk of accidents and thereby subconcussions.
  • Creating a safe environment that can prevent falls or other accidents can be helpful in preventing subconcussions. This includes installing handrails on the staircase, using non-slip mats in the shower and bathtubs, and keeping the walkway clear of clutter.
  • It is also important to know about the signs and symptoms of subconcussions as it can help in seeking medical help and getting treated.


Subconcussions are milder than concussions and do not show any signs and symptoms at or around the time of injury. It can result from a variety of activities including sports, fall, or car accident. Repeated subconcussions can cause damage to the parts of the brain and affect brain function.

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of occurrence of subconcussions by wearing protective gear, practicing safe driving habits, and creating a safe environment. Also, recognizing the signs and symptoms of subconcussions can help in reducing long-term risks and associated complications.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 2, 2023

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