Some people may have seizures following a concussion. Seizures can occur immediately after a head injury or much later. Some people may develop post-traumatic epilepsy, where seizures occur multiple times.

Seizures are sudden changes in electrical activity that cause the brain to malfunction. It can cause symptoms that include involuntary movements, unusual sensations, and loss of consciousness.

The seizures can happen hours or months after a concussion and may occur more than once. Anyone who experiences a seizure after a concussion should immediately contact a doctor.

This article discusses how concussions might cause seizures alongside risk factors, treatment, and prevention.

A person at a window with dappled light, representing a seizure after a concussion.Share on Pinterest
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Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) where a blow to the head causes damage to the brain. People may experience blows to the head from several causes, such as a sporting injury, a fall, or a road accident.

The blow causes the brain to move rapidly within the skull, which can damage cells or result in harmful chemical changes.

Several types of seizures may occur after a concussion. We discuss these in further detail in the sections below.

Early seizures

Seizures that occur within 24 hours after a TBI are known as immediate seizures. Healthcare professionals refer to early seizures within a week of a TBI as early post-traumatic seizures.

Some people who experience these seizures may have another one in the future.

Late seizures

Seizures that occur more than a week after the concussion are late post-traumatic seizures, and around 70% of people who experience these will develop epilepsy.

Post-traumatic epilepsy

Post-traumatic epilepsy is a condition that can develop after a TBI. It usually occurs when someone experiences multiple late post-traumatic seizures following a TBI.

Post-traumatic epilepsy can occur following various types of brain injury, such as a hematoma or bruising.

The leading causes of concussions are falls, being struck by an object, and road accidents. Risk factors for these incidents include:

  • being older
  • playing sports, such as football
  • wearing insufficient protective gear during activities, such as cycling or skating
  • living or working in hazardous environments
  • taking medications with certain side effects, such as drowsiness
  • having inadequate vision

Many factors also increase the risk of someone experiencing a seizure or epilepsy, such as:

Treatment for seizures after a concussion will depend on several factors, such as the presence of post-traumatic epilepsy.

People who experience an early seizure may not require treatment unless they have other symptoms. Healthcare professionals may suggest someone get plenty of rest to recover from the concussion. Other treatments may be necessary depending on how the concussion affects the brain and what symptoms it causes.

However, someone who develops epilepsy following the concussion may require medications, such as anticonvulsants. There is a wide range of these types of drugs. They can be narrow or broad medications, depending on whether the seizure occurs in one or multiple brain areas.

Learn more about medications for epilepsy.

Other treatment options include dietary changes and surgery.

What happens during a seizure depends on the type of seizure.

Focal seizures are a type of seizure that can occur after a head injury, and they initially cause an aura. This is a collection of sensory changes that happen before a seizure, such as visual changes or a rising sensation in the stomach. Someone may look uncomfortable or confused during this state.

Other symptoms include involuntary movements, such as shaking, chewing, or stiffening. The person may appear dazed and confused.

Another type of seizure is a generalized-onset seizure, which has several subtypes. For example, someone might experience tonic or atonic seizures, which can occur if a person has multiple brain injuries.

Tonic seizures cause sudden muscle stiffness around the body and may cause a loss of consciousness. Atonic seizures can cause a sudden loss of muscle control, causing falls.

What to do if someone is having a seizure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that seizures do not usually require emergency medical attention unless one or more of the following occur:

  • it is the person’s first seizure
  • they are having difficulty breathing
  • it lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • the seizure causes an injury
  • it happens in water
  • the person has an underlying health condition, such as diabetes

The CDC suggests staying with the person until they are fully awake, speaking calmly, providing comfort, and offering to help the person get home.

Anyone who experiences a concussion should speak to a healthcare professional for an assessment. Concussions can cause mild or no symptoms at first but then become serious.

People should contact a healthcare professional even with no or mild symptoms.

Learn more about what to do for a concussion.

Some tips to reduce the risk of head injuries that could lead to a concussion include wearing appropriate safety gear, helmets, and headgear for the following sports:

  • baseball and softball
  • cycling
  • football
  • hockey
  • horse riding
  • vehicular sports
  • skateboarding
  • skiing
  • wrestling
  • martial arts
  • pole vaulting
  • soccer

Some general tips to avoid injury include:

  • wearing a seatbelt while driving
  • avoiding alcohol or drugs before driving
  • removing hazards in the home that could cause falls, such as putting away clutter

Here are some common questions about seizures after a concussion.

Can post-traumatic epilepsy go away?

There is currently no cure for epilepsy, but some people may experience long periods without seizures. People can also effectively manage their symptoms with medications.

Can concussions cause seizures years later?

Some late post-traumatic seizures can occur even years after a person has a concussion.

Concussions result from a blow to the head and can cause a range of symptoms. Some people with concussions may also experience seizures. Early post-traumatic seizures happen within a week of the concussion, and late post-traumatic seizures occur more than a week after the injury.

A person may develop epilepsy after a concussion, where multiple seizures occur. People with epilepsy typically require medication to manage their symptoms.