Concussions Can Happen to All Ages, Particularly Aging Adults

While concussions are often thought of as primarily sports-related, the fact is they can happen at any time, to anyone.

“There are lots of concussions that occur just from being in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” says Donna Broshek, PHd, ABPP-CN, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA.

They aren’t happening more frequently, she says. “I think there’s just more awareness of concussions and of the importance of diagnosing them promptly.”

Older people are prone to head injuries, including concussion, when they have difficulty with their balance and/or their eyesight. “Taken together, these factors can cause them to stumble or trip over carpet or steps,” says Dr. Broshek, who notes that young people can be just as at risk for suffering a concussion. “A few years ago, following an ice storm, we saw many people, including college students, who suffered concussions. It was a sudden, icy storm, very slippery, and people weren’t prepared, and they were slipping, falling and hit their heads. “

However, the fact remains that older adults are at particular risk for concussion, and this can cause them serious lasting damage. Falls can cause serious injury and are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury.

Fortunately, actions can be taken to protect aging adults from concussion. They can have regular blood pressure checks, hearing and vision checks as well as inquire with their doctor about medication and dosage, as well as participate in exercise interventions that can improve their balance and their muscle strength, particularly core strength. These actions can all decrease the risk factors for fall and consequently decrease concussion events, says Nelson Cortes, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology, George Mason University
Sports Medicine Assessment, Research & Testing (SMART) Laboratory.