Skip to main content

Post Concussion Syndrome


What is post-concussion syndrome (PCS)?

PCS is a group of symptoms that affect your nerves, thinking, and behavior. PCS develops shortly after a concussion and can last for weeks to months.

What increases my risk for PCS?

  • Older age
  • A substance abuse problem, such as drugs or alcohol
  • A past head injury
  • A current mood or anxiety disorder
  • Poor physical health before your concussion

What are the signs and symptoms of PCS?

  • Headaches or vision problems
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Forgetfulness or problems concentrating
  • Problems with sleep
  • Changes in your personality
  • Seizures
  • Depression or anxiety

How is PCS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury. Tell the provider when it happened, what hit you, and the force of the blow. You, or someone close to you, should tell your provider about any confusion you have or changes in your behavior. You may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam is used to test your memory and your ability to recognize familiar things. It will also show healthcare providers your eye, verbal, and muscle responses.
  • Blood and urine tests will be done to make sure there is no other cause for your symptoms. Infections and chemicals, such as alcohol, can affect your memory and behavior.
  • CT scan pictures of your head may show an injury. You may be given contrast liquid to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is PCS treated?

Treatment of PCS will focus on your symptoms:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antidepressants may be given for depression or sleep problems.
  • Migraine medicines may be given for migraine headaches.

What are the risks of PCS?

PCS may decrease your ability to function at home, school, or work. You may develop persistent post-concussion syndrome. You may develop second-impact syndrome if you have another concussion before you have recovered from the first. Second-impact syndrome can be life-threatening.

How can I prevent PCS?

  • Make your home safe. Home safety measures can help prevent head injuries that could lead to a concussion. Install handrails for every staircase. Put soft bumpers on furniture edges and corners. Secure furniture, such as dressers and book cases so they do not fall over.
  • Always wear a seatbelt in the car. This helps decrease your risk for a head injury if you are in a car accident.
  • Wear protective sports equipment that fits properly. Helmets help decrease your risk for a serious brain injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways that you can decrease your risk for a concussion if you play sports. Ask for more information about sports concussions.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Rest from physical and mental activities as directed. Mental activities need you to think, concentrate, and pay attention. Rest will help you recover from your concussion. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to school and other daily activities.
  • Go to therapy as directed. A cognitive behavioral therapist teaches you skills to help with any thinking and behavior problems you may have. An occupational therapist teaches your skills to help with daily activities.
  • Do not participate in sports or physical activities until your healthcare provider says it is okay. These activities could make your symptoms worse or lead to another concussion. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to return to sports or physical activities.

Where can I find more information?

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

Have someone call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You are not responding or you cannot be woken.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a sudden headache that seems different or much worse than your usual headaches.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have sudden changes in your vision.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have trouble concentrating.
  • You have difficulty speaking or thinking.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Post Concussion Syndrome

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.