Memory loss is a common concussion symptom. But what many patients don’t know is that it comes in multiple forms and might not go away with time.
The patients who come to our clinic often ask us if their memory problems stemmed from a concussion. They want to understand why they’re experiencing it and what we can do to help them recover. In this post, we’ll run through some of their most common questions, then dive into the recovery stories of six patients who experienced memory loss — among other symptoms — after a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
If you’re experiencing symptoms that won’t resolve after a mild traumatic brain injury, you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy. 90% of our patients show symptom improvement after just one week of treatment at our center specializing in post-concussion therapy. To see if you are eligible for treatment, sign up for a consultation.
Concussion Memory Loss Recovery Stories
In this section, you’ll find videos and summaries that describe the recovery journey of six patients who suffered from memory loss (among other symptoms). As you’ll see, they all had different reasons for sustaining a head injury, but they were all able to make significant progress through their hard work and dedication during treatment.
Caitlyn’s Story: Back to College After Seven Concussions
After sustaining seven concussions, Caitlyn suffered a host of lingering symptoms that just wouldn’t go away. “Life before treatment was unbearable,” she recalled. She had memory problems, light sensitivity, dizziness, headaches, and more.
Simple tasks like going to the grocery store by herself were impossible, and she was forced to drop out of college halfway through her first semester. “I couldn’t retain any information,” she said.
The inability to go to school was the turning point for her. Committed to understanding her condition, Caitlyn sought medical help. She learned that her symptoms came from post-concussion syndrome and that they were treatable. When she found Cognitive FX, she was skeptical as to whether the doctors and therapists could really help her, but was willing to try anything if it meant getting her life back.
“The treatment you go through is exhausting, but compared to the last five years, it was nothing I couldn’t handle,” she said. “It was amazing to see not only myself changing, but the people alongside me who were in the treatment as well. I felt really accomplished after I would finish my cognitive therapy without getting a really bad headache, or when I was able to run on a treadmill for 30 min without getting dizzy.”
After one week of rigorous physical therapy and cognitive exercises, her brain scans were back to the normal range, and her symptoms were under control. She found that college classes (and running errands alone!) were entirely within her grasp again. At the time, she expressed eagerness to return to school and study nursing.
“Just being able to go to the mountains to see my brother — I hadn’t been able to do that in a while because the altitude change would make me so sick. I’m really excited just to be able to live life like normal,” she said.
Ryan’s Story: Hope After Long-Term and Short-Term Memory Loss
After sustaining a concussion in a car accident, Ryan’s life was turned upside down. He suffered from short-term memory problems, long-term memory problems, difficulty focusing, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and general cognitive difficulties. He and his mother looked for answers, but “we just never found anything that could help him,” his mother explained. “We were just praying and praying for something that would help him to go forward in life, so he could have all the things we wanted for him in a more normal life.”
So when Ryan’s aunt told them about Cognitive FX, they decided to pursue treatment at the clinic. Ryan was willing to put in whatever work was necessary to make a full recovery.
“Even after the first day, my energy level was already starting to go up. I was able to sleep better at night, and as the week went on, my energy — I have a ton of energy now. My focus is a lot better. I can multitask again, my long-term memory is pretty good now too, and short-term is not a problem. I can remember things people tell me, things I see,” he said.
“The people you work with — they're so friendly,” he said. “It's the only place I've gone to where everyone really cares and asks you every day how you're doing. It's like a family environment, which helps you become more comfortable, which is important when you're trying to do therapy.”
Something his mother was grateful for were the follow-up instructions: physical and cognitive exercises to do at home, nutrition advice, and follow-up calls. “Those things show me that it's a real program that is about the whole health and wellness of my child and his brain and his future,” she said.
Aimee’s Story: Finding Healing After a Car Accident
Aimee was in a car accident in 2001. Her severe traumatic brain injury caused personality changes, constant headaches (“I took Maxalt and Imitrex like they were candy,” she recalled), memory problems, exhaustion (even narcolepsy), dizziness with workouts, light and sound sensitivity, and more. She relied on her phone for lists, calendar reminders, and anything else she could use to stay on top of life’s demands.
Seventeen years later, she read about Cognitive FX and “was unbelieving,” she admitted. “As soon as I learned about it, I got in for a consultation. I took a week to research and talk to people, weigh the pros and cons. I figured, it’s my brain. If this can help, I’m going to try it.”
After that, she “jumped all in” and fully committed to doing whatever it took to get better. In October 2017, she worked through occupational therapy and physical therapy. “It’s been two months now, and I can still remember all the pictures they laid out for me to help me remember things, even though they were pretty insignificant to me.”
One of the exercises that stood out to her was using a Dynavision board, which helps patients with vision-related symptoms. “I did a pretty cool thing called Dynavision where I’d balance on a ball or stand on one foot and touch lights as they light up. It’s just challenging, but in a fun and enjoyable way.”
“When I left on Friday, I was so excited that I couldn’t contain myself; I just wanted to talk!” she said. She felt so much more like herself and started using words she hadn’t used in years. Everything looked brighter and cleaner than it did before. It took some time to adjust, but she’s been doing recommended exercises after treatment and can multitask better than she could before her injury.
She still gets headaches when she “doesn’t take care of herself,” but they’re way less frequent and less severe. She’s been able to significantly decrease her narcolepsy medication and hopes to get off it completely one day — something she never thought she’d say. All of her symptoms have improved. “It’s just a better version of me,” she reflected.
During his career as a professional mixed martial arts fighter, David experienced severe post-concussion syndrome from multiple concussions. He had some “tough fights” and got knocked out a few times. Beginning in 2015, his symptoms increased over time, and he suffered from severe depression, anxiety, vertigo, sensitivity to light and noise, forgetfulness, and more. He had to isolate himself and felt “super, super dizzy” after trying to exercise and would have to lie down. He could never seem to find his keys or his car.
By the time he found Cognitive FX, some of his symptoms were less severe than they used to be, and he wondered if he really still needed treatment. “I almost didn’t come,” he admitted, “but I decided to come anyway.”
“The week of treatment was a lot of hard work. Many hours of the things they do here — brain games, all the different physical therapies — at times it was trying, and actually, by Wed or Thur, I went from having very few physical symptoms to where I felt almost fully post-concussed again. I was dizzy, I was agitated, resentful,” he said.
He was so frustrated because it seemed, to him, like he was getting worse, not better. But nevertheless, he worked hard at the exercises he was asked to do. But by Thursday night, he felt like his brain started turning on again. “On Friday we did the [fNCI] scan, and it came back with some pretty awesome results. The blood is flowing correctly to the parts of my brain that it wasn’t before.”
“I’m really pleased with the experience,” he said. “It seemed well worth the time and the money and the effort to come out here. I’m excited to continue to improve my brain. The results are real.”
Kelly’s Story: Overcoming Severe Short-Term Memory Loss
Kelly was in a motor vehicle accident but didn’t realize he had severe memory problems until his fiancée clued him in. As it turned out, he was having the same conversations again and again. “It turns out I was just missing so much of my life,” he said, “so I came here.”
At first, he thought the program sounded ridiculous. One week to fix a problem that’s been happening over a year? “Or so I’m told,” he laughed.
“Well,” he continued, “I got the results. I can think again. And I can remember again! I won’t have any excuses for my fiancée if I forget things at the store, or birthdays, or anniversaries, or anything else.”
Overall, he was blown away by his recovery. “My experience here has been amazing,” he said. “You’re pushed mentally, but you don’t feel like it, because it just brings you alive. I feel so much better.”
Lynette’s Story: Recovering After Being Rear-Ended on the Freeway
Lynette was injured in a motor-vehicle accident when another driver rear-ended her car at highway speeds. “My year has been one heck of a roller-coaster ride,” she shared. She endured a year of pain, memory loss, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and other symptoms.
It made her job — insurance sales — extremely difficult to perform. “I was losing a lot of big contracts because I was messing up on the formulas and the addition, I was inverting numbers, that sort of thing,” she said.
“Emotionally, it really caused a lot of pain and anguish. I’m to the point where I actually lost a marriage over the accident,” she added.
Before fully committing to treatment, Lynette decided to come in for an fNCI scan to confirm what she was being told about her brain. “At that point, I became incredibly emotional, because for the first time in my life, I realized that I had some hope. I thought I was going to have to live the rest of my life with a foggy brain and a massive headache all the time.”
She felt the fog lift three days into treatment and finally feels like herself again. “I feel like I’ve had this rebirth of ‘me’ again,” she said. “The technology that they’re using to reactivate your brain is just miraculous.” She’s thrilled with the outcome and loved meeting staff and other patients.
Common Questions About Concussions and Memory Loss
In this section, we’ll quickly answer your most common questions about concussions, memory loss, and how to fix it.
1. Can a Concussion Cause Memory Loss?
Yes, concussions can cause memory loss. Head injuries can cause loss of memory surrounding the event itself or recurring memory loss after the injury.
Severe memory loss (completely forgetting an event or the people you spoke with, even though you were present) is rare for concussion, but it can happen. It’s more common to have that kind of memory loss with a severe TBI.
For most concussion patients, memory loss involves difficulty remembering smaller things such as what to buy at the grocery store, what someone just told them, or the information for an upcoming test. That often means needing to write things down and rely heavily on calendars.
Contrary to popular belief, loss of consciousness at the time of the injury does not make you more or less likely to have lasting memory loss or other concussion symptoms. In reality, mental confusion (disorientation) puts you at greater risk for lasting symptoms.
It doesn’t matter whether you sustained your concussion (otherwise known as a mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI) playing contact sports, in a motor vehicle accident, tripping down the stairs, or any other scenario you can imagine — any head trauma puts you at risk for brain damage that can cause memory loss.
2. Can a Concussion Cause Memory Loss Years Later?
Yes, a concussion can cause long-term memory loss and recurring short-term memory loss, even weeks, months, or years after the head trauma. Usually, this is known as a symptom of post-concussion syndrome.
While some patients make the connection to their head injury right away, others may take some time to realize the mTBI they sustained is behind their current symptoms. Often, patients will be told by friends and family about their short-term memory loss (since it’s hard to realize what you’ve forgotten!).
3. Can You Have Permanent Memory Loss From a Concussion?
Without treatment, recurring memory problems from a concussion can be permanent. But via active rehabilitation, patients can make great strides in recovering their normal ability to retain short- and long-term memories.
Yes, you can have memory loss from just one concussion, although it’s more common to see persistent symptoms after more than one concussion. The more concussions you’ve had, the higher the chances of symptoms that do not go away without treatment.
If you’ve had multiple concussions, you have a higher chance of permanently impacted brain function. Our post on the topic explains what happens to your brain cells when you have multiple concussions and how to get treatment so you can feel better and improve your memory.
5. Is There Medication for Short-Term Memory Loss?
The only medication on the market for short-term memory loss is designed to treat Alzheimer’s patients. As far as we know, there is no memory loss medication for patients who have sustained a TBI. More often than not, memory loss can be a side effect of the medication patients take to relieve other symptoms of concussion.
For example, some patients take Topamax to relieve headaches after a concussion (not a health care choice we recommend, since this medication is primarily designed to help control seizures, not headaches). We’ve seen a number of patients with increased memory problems as a result of taking the drug.
Note: Our patients show a 60% symptom improvement after just one week of treatment at Cognitive FX. And using advanced brain scan techniques, we can see how our patients' brains respond to treatment. To learn more about how we can help you in your recovery, sign up for a consultation.
If you’re experiencing long-term or short-term memory loss after one or more concussions, there’s still hope. All six of these patients regained their ability to remember everything from important life moments to the day’s task list.
90% of our patients show symptom improvement after just one week of treatment at our center specializing in post-concussion therapy. To see if you are eligible for treatment, sign up for a consultation.
About Olivia Seitz
Olivia is a content strategist at Grow & Convert. She loves science, cats, swing dancing, and telling stories.