How Head Injuries and Concussions Can Have an Impact on Balance

girl with concussion having balance issues

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are as many as 3.8 million concussions in the United States annually. 

Concussions and head injuries can have a serious impact on cognitive function, but not everyone realizes that they can also have an impact on balance. In fact, almost half of those who suffered a traumatic brain injury have experienced dizziness and other balance problems at some point in their recovery process. 

Which Part of the Brain Causes Loss of Balance?

To understand how a traumatic brain injury like a concussion can cause a loss of balance, it is important to know what balance is.

Balance refers to the ability to center your body over your base of support. When standing, this means being able to center it over your feet, while when sitting, your base of support is your buttocks, feet, and thighs. 

Different parts of the brain contribute to maintaining your balance, but the main one is the cerebellum. It is located at the back of your skull and controls many functions, including:

  • Posture
  • Speech
  • Balance 
  • Movement

A head injury to the cerebellum can lead to loss of balance, especially if the injury also affects the vestibular system. 

What Causes Balance Problems After a Brain Injury?

After sustaining a traumatic brain injury, there can be several reasons you may be experiencing balance problems. 

If you started taking medications after the brain injury, they could cause dizziness. Medications like antibiotics, tranquilizers, heart medications, and anti-seizure medications are the ones that cause the most balance issues. 

If the medication is the cause, you may be able to get rid of the balance problems if your doctor adjusts dosages or changes the medication. 

One of the most common causes of vertigo after a traumatic brain injury is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This is when the crystals in the inner ear move out of place after a concussion or other head injury. The repositioning of the crystals makes you more sensitive to changes in gravity. 

Symptoms of BPPV can begin with a change of head position, lying down, or even sitting up in bed. 

If the traumatic brain injury caused a labyrinthine concussion or injury to the vestibular system nerves, you could also have symptoms of vertigo and loss of balance. A labyrinthine concussion is damage to the inner ear because of a head trauma that caused no defined injuries or skull damage. 

If a brain injury damaged the nerves in your feet, they could not send the messages to your brain that it needs to maintain your balance. Your brain can only rely on your eyesight and inner ear, which might also have suffered damage after trauma. 

After trauma, there can be a change to the fluid balance in your inner ear, leading to traumatic endolymphatic hydrops. This, too, can lead to periods of vertigo and even ringing in your ears. 

The severity of the head injury and the area of the brain that was affected can determine the cause of your balance problems. 

What Kind of Injuries Can Affect Balance?

Car crashes are some of the most common injuries that affect balance. In a motor vehicle crash, you may have a traumatic brain injury, as well as a spinal injury and leg injuries, which all lead to loss of balance. 

Sports injuries are another common type of injury that leads to balance problems. American football players are particularly at risk of concussions and other head trauma. 

Potentially, any injury can lead to balance problems because it can make it more challenging to coordinate movements. Injuries can also cause loss of strength or chronic pain, resulting in loss of balance. 

Get Help After a Head Injury

If you received a traumatic brain injury, having problems with your balance is normal.  However, this doesn’t mean you have to live with balance issues. You can get the assistance you need by contacting us at Happy Ears Balance Center.

We provide fall risk assessments, neurodiagnostic vestibular testing, and canalith repositioning maneuvers to treat BPPV. Call us today to schedule a consultation.