Can medicinal cannabis help people who are suffering from symptoms of a concussion? Read below to find out more. 

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that results from a bump, jolt or blow to your head that disrupts normal brain function. A concussion can also be caused by a hit to the body that causes your head to jerk forcefully to any side. 

Concussions stretch and bruise the nerves and blood vessels and cause chemical changes in the brain, resulting in a temporary loss of brain function. One concussion typically doesn’t cause permanent damage to the brain; however, multiple concussions may result in structural changes in the brain. This is seen most commonly in athletes. The effects of a concussion can be severe and last for days or weeks. 

Who do they affect?

Those at a greater risk for concussion may include the following:

  • Older adults and young children due to their risk of falls
  • Adolescents due to bike accidents and sports-related injuries
  • Military personnel due to exposure to explosives
  • Anyone involved in a car accident
  • Victims of physical abuse and violence
  • Anyone with a history of a previous concussion.

Signs & Symptoms

Concussion symptoms typically appear within minutes of the head trauma. However, some may take several hours and can worsen over time. 

If a person experiences the following symptoms in the hours or days after a head injury, get them to the doctor ASAP:

  • Severe headache that may worsen
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Severe dizziness
  • loss of balance
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Increasing confusion
  • Watery discharge from the nose or ears
  • Bloody discharge from the ears.
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling in limbs
  • Slurred speech.
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness or passing out 

Diagnosis & Treatment

The doctor will typically ask about the events leading to the head injury and perform a neurological exam. The neurological exam will check for the following:

  • Neurological function
  • Reflexes
  • Vision and eye movement
  • Light Sensitivity 
  • Balance and coordination.
  • Hearing
  • Neck muscles for motion and soreness
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Memory and concentration

Physical and mental rest is needed to recover from a concussion. Instead of stopping activities entirely, most people learn to recognize the triggers that bring on symptoms. Performing some daily activities that don’t make you feel worse is okay, but they will need to be limited for some time after the concussion. As symptoms improve, most people begin adding more activities to their day.

Can medical marijuana help? 

Medical marijuana is commonly found to possess significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help with chronic pain management reasonably quickly and even lower blood pressure. Cannabinoid receptors bind to the brain and peripheral nerve cells within your endocannabinoid system and help regulate how a person sees and feels the pain to reduce symptoms.

New research focuses on CBD’s potential to influence the residual changes in the brain caused by a concussion. Further research is needed to understand the benefits and risks of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. THC and CBD haven’t been thoroughly studied in concussions, but there are researched pathways in which they may relieve many symptoms. The Dent Neurologic Institute and the Concussion Alliance have provided recent information stating that some cannabis products may benefit patients suffering from concussion symptoms.  

A Washington University study found that “52 percent of retired players said they used prescription pain medication during their playing days.” With many others from the NFL players association coming out about the dangers of using painkillers, there is scientific evidence that marijuana could be a safer option in sports medicine for professional athletes to ease concussion-related symptoms and performance enhancement.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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