Memory Loss After a Concussion

Concussion injuries can cause a variety of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. For many injury victims, the most disturbing symptoms affect cognition. Confusion reduced attention span, and amnesia can raise concerns about a victim’s ability to recover their pre-injury mental skills.

Memory loss happens often. In many cases, concussion victims only lose memories surrounding their injury and have no chronic memory problems. In other cases, amnesia prevents patients from learning new skills or information. Here is what you need to know about memory loss after suffering a head injury in Louisiana.

What Is a Concussion?

What Is a Concussion?

Doctors refer to concussions as mild brain injuries because they rarely cause permanent brain damage or death. But their symptoms can be far from mild.

Your body provides several layers of protection for your brain. The skull protects the brain from impacts. Membranes called meninges surround the brain and spinal cord to shield them from bacteria and other microorganisms that could infect the brain. The brain also floats in a layer of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF cushions the brain from hitting the skull when it gets jolted.

When your brain shifts inside your head, you can suffer damage to the related tissues despite these protections. This is because the body responds to all types of tissue damage with inflammation, which involves swelling and increasing the temperature of the damaged area.

However, inflammation in the brain can cause brain cells to malfunction. Brain cells need oxygen to function properly, but the swelling reduces blood flow to the brain. Fever in the brain can cause cognitive problems.

The result of these changes in the brain produces the symptoms characteristic of concussions, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Amnesia
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness

These symptoms typically subside within two months. As the swelling goes down, the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms dissipate.

How Do Concussions Happen?

Three types of trauma can cause a jolt to your brain that can produce a concussion. These three types of trauma include:

Blunt Trauma

You can suffer a concussion when you hit your head. An impact on your skull causes the brain to shift. The CSF and meninges press against the brain to resist the shift, and this pressure injures the brain.

Blunt trauma can happen in falls. In a slip and fall accident, your feet slip forward, and you fall backward. You can suffer a concussion when the back of your head hits the ground.

Rapid Acceleration or Deceleration

You can also suffer a concussion without hitting your head. This type of concussion occurs when your body rapidly accelerates or decelerates. The brain shifts inside your head the same way water sloshes in a water bottle when it stops suddenly. The pressure of the CSF as your brain moves can lead to a concussion.

The most common cause of this type of concussion comes from car accidents. When your vehicle collides with another, your body hits your seat belt, but your head continues to whip forward. As your brain rattles around in your skull, the CSF and meninges push against it.


Explosions produce a blast wave of pressurized air. This pressure wave compresses your brain as it passes you. The compression can cause a concussion even if nothing hits your head in the explosion.

These types of concussions can happen in workplace accidents involving workers who use explosives. Workers in demolitions, mining, and oil and gas extraction could suffer these types of injuries.

Why Does Memory Loss Happen?

You have two types of memory. Short-term memory holds information for just a few minutes while your brain uses it. For example, your brain might store an address in short-term memory until you can write it down.

Long-term memory holds information and skills that you learn. The long-term memory performs two processes. When you learn something you need to remember, your brain encodes it in your long-term memory. While scientists do not know exactly how encoding works, they do know that memories correspond to a pattern of neurons firing together.

The second process, called retrieval, allows your brain to recall the stored memory. Again, doctors do not know how the brain does it, but the same pattern of neurons fires when you recall the encoded memory. As you repeatedly recall and use the memory, the connections within the pattern of neurons get stronger. 

Concussions can affect your memory in three ways:

Shutting Down Encoding

One of the most common concussion symptoms is memory loss surrounding the accident or incident that caused your concussion. Many people remember what happened a few hours before and after their concussions. But the memories from immediately before and during the incident that caused the concussion get lost.

When you suffer a concussion, you might momentarily lose consciousness. While unconscious, your brain does not encode memories. In other words, you cannot remember the time surrounding your concussion because it never made it into your brain.

Causing Mental Trauma

Your mind often responds to a traumatic event by adjusting itself to protect you from further mental injuries. One way your brain may adjust is to increase its sensitivity to triggers. Suppose that you got injured in a motorcycle crash; your brain might experience intense fear and anxiety when you see or hear a motorcycle as a result.

The other way your brain may react is by blocking any memories of your injury. From your brain’s point of view, reliving the trauma through your memories may feel as bad as living through the original trauma. In this case, the memories were encoded, but your brain actively prevents you from retrieving them.

Damaging Your Memory Centers

The rarest cause of post-concussion amnesia happens when your injury damages the memory centers of your brain. In this case, you may have permanent memory deficits due to your brain’s inability to encode or recall new memories. As a result, you may not be able to learn new skills or information.

In Louisiana, you can get compensation for concussions that resulted from someone else’s actions. You will need to prove that the other party intentionally or negligently injured you. For example, when a grocery store fails to clean up a spill despite receiving complaints from customers, the store operator might have acted negligently.

Memory loss can disable you and significantly erode your quality of life. At Kenny Habetz Injury Law, our award-winning team has recovered millions of dollars for injured clients. Contact us online or call (337) 399-9000 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Lafayette personal injury lawyer.