A mild traumatic brain injury is one that causes a change of consciousness or mental status for only a brief period of time. If you experience an mTBI at work, you may return to work following a brief period of recuperation, fully recovered to all appearances.
However, if you experience repeated brain injuries, even if they are mild, you may be at risk for complications that could be either chronic or acute.
Research suggests that repeated TBI could put you at risk for a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The primary symptoms are the degeneration of neural function and cognitive impairment. As a result, you may develop memory loss and dementia. Some studies associate CTE with an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Though most of the research on CTE has involved athletes, such as football players and boxers, it has implications for those in other professions, particularly the military. A definitive diagnosis of CTE can only take place on postmortem examination. The signs can be subtle, so much so that doctors do not always recognize them in a timely fashion.
Second-impact syndrome can occur if you experience a second traumatic brain injury before the initial concussion has had a chance to heal. SIS seems to be rare, with only 17 rigorously confirmed cases in over a decade. However, it can cause death due to swelling of the brain or protrusion from its normal position within the skull within minutes of the second impact.
If you were to experience second-impact syndrome, you may seem only dazed at first. You would not necessarily have to lose consciousness. Therefore, it may be difficult at first for you or the people around you to realize that you could have a serious complication of a traumatic brain injury. The time it takes to recover from an initial mTBI can vary. You may be vulnerable to SIS for up to several weeks following your initial injury.