Cognitive Complications After A Mild Head Trauma

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), also called a concussion, is a common occurrence when someone is injured in a car accident. The term 'mild' can be very misleading, however, as it refers only to the extent of the physical injury and not the emotional and cognitive complications that can occur as a result of this type of head trauma. Symptoms can be quite varied, and may also have a delayed onset of days, or even weeks after the accident, so it is vitally important that anyone involved in an accident seek medical attention even if they appear to be functioning normally. 

Symptoms of MTBI

Mild brain trauma is usually short-lived and often requires no treatment, other than rest. However, about 15 percent of people who experience MTBI have complications that last a year or longer. Although the symptoms can be quite varied and are often subtle, cognitive problems can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory lapses
  • Problems with receptive and expressive language
  • Perseveration - getting stuck on an idea or activity and unable to shift attention
  • Slower processing/thinking speed
  • Unable to make reasonable decisions
  • Inability to sequence or categorize items correctly
  • Unable to plan or organize effectively

How is MTBI Diagnosed?

Though medical professionals often request a brain scan, this type of imaging often does not show the subtle damage that occurs in MTBI. The only way to accurately assess the effects of any trauma is to undergo a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery, which can measure attention, cognition, memory and other executive function tasks, like the ability to sequence and correctly categorize items and objects. While this type of testing may be intensive, it is essential to understanding any complications that may occur as the result of the accident.  


The most important factors in recovery from a brain injury are awareness of the potential problems and an understanding of the outcomes of the injury. Both the injured party, and their family and friends, need to be aware that recovery may take a significant amount of time, and that the person may not regain all of their normal abilities. Providing a supportive environment for a person who has been injured is essential. There are a number of brain injury associations across the country that can provide both information and support. Additionally, if the injury is expected to significantly limit the person's abilities,and the accident was caused by another party, then talking with a personal injury attorney may be advisable. MTBI can have profound consequences and the treatment and recovery process can be costly, so those injured will want to be sure that they are adequately compensated.