Long-Term Impact of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries: The Need for Rehabilitation

| By Dr. Jennifer Hunnicutt

The aftermath of mild TBI underscores the necessity for tailored rehabilitation interventions.

Most of us are familiar with concussions, but did you know that concussions fall under the umbrella term of mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI)? 

According to the CDC, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Still, both are serious health concerns with potentially long-term consequences. 

A recent study from Sweden (Magnusson et al., 2024) documents the aftermath of mild TBI and underscores the necessity for tailored rehabilitation interventions. Read on to learn more! 

The Study at a Glance

Between 2015 and 2016, researchers at Umeå University Hospital in Sweden enrolled participants who visited the emergency room with head trauma (mechanical blow to the head). All participants were diagnosed with TBIs. 

Five years later, researchers collected information on participants’ status and recovery from their TBI. They collected standard questionnaires like the Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire (RPQ) and the Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended (GOSE).

The participant group primarily comprised of men (72%) in their early forties (average age 42). Most participants (57%) were classified as healthy before their head trauma. The study totaled 49 participants with mild TBI with available information after five years. 

Key Finding #1: Most participants had lingering symptoms. 

Nearly 80% of participants reported lingering symptoms, with fatigue and poor concentration topping the list. Interestingly, women reported that they were more likely to feel frustrated and nauseous when compared to men. Yet, regarding overall recovery, gender and age seemed to play minimal roles in influencing the outcomes.

Key Finding #2: Multiple head trauma resulted in worse outcomes. 

One of the more concerning findings is the substantial number of individuals (27%) reporting additional head trauma since the beginning of the study. Those with repeated head trauma were more likely to be classified as having severe disability after five years. 

Key Finding #3: Very few participants participated in rehabilitation. 

Despite the evident need for rehabilitation post-concussion, only a fraction of participants (21%) reported undergoing any form of rehabilitation. The correlation between the number of symptoms reported and the level of disability observed emphasizes the importance of early and customized intervention strategies. 

A Look at the Future

This study revealed that the high rate of symptoms years after a mild TBI reminds us of the injury’s potential to alter lives. It also shows that there is a long window of time in which to offer and support those affected. 

We know that early intervention is best. Therefore, the integration of tailored rehabilitation programs into the standard of care treatment protocols could be significant to mitigate the long-term consequences of TBIs. By identifying those at risk of prolonged symptoms early on, healthcare providers can allocate resources more efficiently, ensuring that individuals receive the support they need to navigate recovery.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

While this study did include a wide and diverse range of individuals from Sweden, it is important to note that it has some limitations. It included a small sample size, and no healthy control group was included.


Despite the limitations, this study further confirms some well-known long-term consequences following concussion. Lingering symptoms occur, and multiple head traumas can result in worse outcomes. Our current and evidence-based solution is tailored rehabilitation intervention.

I look forward to future research that will emerge in this area!


Magnusson BM, Ahrenby E, Stålnacke BM. Symptoms and Disability after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Five-Year Follow-up. J Integr Neurosci. 2024 Feb 22;23(2):45. doi: 10.31083/j.jin2302045. PMID: 38419456.

Dr. Jennifer Hunnicutt

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