Brain damage can occur in even mild bumps to the head

Even a mild knock to the head causes long-lasting brain damage in nearly half of patients, research has shown.

Scientists at Cambridge University found that 45 per cent of patients had symptoms at least six months after suffering a concussion, known as mild traumatic brain injury.

Common causes are falls, car crashes, cycling accidents or injuries while playing contact sports such as rugby. Despite being labelled mild — patients are told to manage them without treatment — these bumps are commonly linked with incomplete recovery and symptoms including depression, fatigue and headaches.

The study, involving 108 patients who had suffered a concussion, found that after six months only half had made a full recovery. Brain scans showed that those with long-lasting symptoms had changes in how regions of the brain communicated with each other.

Patients with a suspected concussion typically receive brain scans to look for structural problems, such as inflammation or bruising, but even if these scans show no obvious damage symptoms may still persist.