Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is widely explained as a syndrome that occurs after a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) with symptoms that include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration
  • Sensitivity to noise and light

A new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry shows that PCS is not only present in patients with a MTBI, but also in patients with other bodily injuries. The study also suggests that this syndrome is, in reality, just a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder triggered by a traumatic event which involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. These findings could help hospital workers and psychiatrists diagnose PTSD early on for faster and better treatment.

The Study

Researchers gathered patients from the adult emergency department in the University Hospital of Bordeaux, 534 with a head injury and 827 control patients without a head injury. During their stay in the hospital, patients were given a baseline questionnaire concerning their quality of life and other pre-injury symptoms. Three months after their injuries, researchers contacted the patients and interviewed them once more on their health status and symptoms.

After three months, 21.2% of patients with a head injury and 16.3% of patients without a head injury qualified as a PCS patient, showing that the relationship between PCS and head traumas is weak. The presence of PTSD showed a higher contrast, with 8.8% of patients with a MTBI also exhibiting symptoms of PTSD and only 2.2% of non-head injury patients exhibiting PTSD symptoms. Researchers also found that patients who had been assaulted had a five times greater risk of PTSD than those who had no history of assault.

What This Means for PCS and PTSD

Currently, doctors only diagnose PCS in patients who have experienced a head injury. This new research proves that PCS affects patients both with and without head injuries. This study also reveals an overlap of many of the symptoms of PCS and PTSD, meaning that PCS might be a symptom, not a syndrome. Before PCS is diagnosed, doctors and psychiatrists should look for signs of PTSD in patients. Only then can a correct diagnosis be made.

Date of original publication:


  1. Emmanuel Lagarde, PhD; Louis-Rachid Salmi, MD, PhD; Lena W. Holm, DrMedSc; Benjamin Contrand, MPH; Françoise Masson, MD; Régis Ribéreau-Gayon, MD; Magali Laborey, PhD; J. David Cassidy, PhD, DrMedSc. Association of Symptoms Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder vs Postconcussion Syndrome. JAMA Psychiatry, 2014. DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.666