By On July 12th, 2013

How Is Your TV Making Your Concussion Symptoms Worse?

LCD ScreenOnly a small percentage of those who suffer a concussion will experience persistent symptoms lasting more than a week, but for those who do endure what is referred to as Post Concussive Syndrome (PCS) the lingering symptoms can be debilitating.

While anyone with a concussion can possibly also suffer from PCS, data suggests that teenage girls are the most vulnerable to long-term symptoms such as headaches and dizziness that characterize PCS.

Coincidentally, teens who are under a large amount of stress to excel in school, or who deal with high levels of anxiety or worry, are also more susceptible to PCS.

The symptom will often not be diagnosed for weeks after the injury, as it is difficult to establish exactly when PCS grows out of a brain injury, but the patients often endure fatigue, dizziness, and headaches daily until diagnosed.

So what differs between how doctors manage an “average” concussion compared to PCS? Patients are still encouraged to rest their bodies and brains, stay in low-lit rooms, and generally avoid exertion. However, it is believed many with PCS are also spending a lot of time in front of various LCD screens which can contribute to the prolonged headaches.

While almost all of us spend time in front of LCD screens, none of us notice the constant flickering at roughly 30 Hz which allows the screen to update new information such as scrolling, mouse movement, or to show video. The flickering is invisible to the naked eye, but it also strains our eye muscles as they attempt to keep up with the new information. This is exactly why sitting in front of the computer too long can give the average user headaches, and this becomes compounded by PCS.

It isn’t just computer screens that function this way either. TV’s and cellphones all run on LCD screens, which means many of us are constantly surrounded by screens which strain our eyes. For the majority, this isn’t an issue, but for those with a brain injury this can be a big issue. It doesn’t help that those with brain injury often deal with distraction and general trouble reading, which make patients stare more intently at the screen they are reading.

As a result of this, Gayatri Devi, M.D., Neurologist and Director of the New York Memory Services, has constructed a specific list of rules to help PCS patients recover more quickly by moving away from the screens.

16 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    Does this include smart boards (where video/images are projected onto a white board)?

  2. I say yes. I have patients who are sensitive to white boards and doc cams for various reasons, including brain injuries, even after other screens are removed.

    Victoria Dunckley MD, Integrative Child Psychiatrist and author, Reset Your Child’s Brain

  3. Emma says:

    I was diagnosed with a mild concussion a couple days ago and i have nothing to do but go on my laptop because I’ve been out of school all week. Should I stay off of my computer and stop watching TV for a week or two to be sure that it heals fully?

  4. Larry says:

    My daughter received a concussion in a high school soccer game a couple of days ago and is staying home from school to rest. She also recently broke up with her boy friend. When I told her today to stop any kind of screen time, she immediately started crying because she said all she would be able to do is think about her breakup and she would start “overthinking” things. It seems like avoiding all screen time is a big ask of high school aged children, or anyone else for that matter. But particularly so for somebody who is going through an emotional trauma as well as a physical one.

    Other articles I’ve read suggesting avoiding screen time have said that even though TV or texting might seem mindless, the brain is still processing information and is not resting. This article suggests that screens should be avoided because of eye strain.

    If the need to avoid screen time is due to the need to rest from the brain processing information, that would seem to be equally applicable to reading a regular book. Whereas if the need to avoid screen time is due to eyestrain from viewing LCD screens, that would not seem applicable to reading a regular book.

    So my question is, would it be ok for her to read books instead of watching TV? Meanwhile, I’ve given her the ok to watch TV (I told her to just try to turn off her brain while watching) because that seems to be a better choice than her getting emotionally upset because she has nothing else to do besides stew about her recent breakup.

  5. Nelly says:

    How long does post concussion symptoms like this last for? I am 36 years old (female) and had a bad concussion 6 months ago. I stopped looking at screens after I realized migraines got worse – and that helped. However I started looking at them again and symptoms are back

  6. Eileen Shapero says:

    I’d like to know how computer screens can be better adapted to help folks who have had brain trauma. What is the latest in LCD modifications to help others? My adult son easily gets a headache after computer time..recovering now almost 2 years from a blood clot.His eyes and vision are just fine, otherwise, thank G-d. Any advice here would be so appreciated. Thanks!

  7. Lukas says:

    Does the screens refresh rate make a difference?
    Is a Screen with a refresh rate of 60 Hz better or worse?

  8. Bekah says:

    I had a lot of compounding concussions 5-10 years ago and still noticing with an increase in screen time (watching tv for the first time in probably 10 years) my migraines are debilitating again. My vision and brain symptoms also get worse when I am on my phone for extended periods. But I function so poorly in everyday life what else can I use as a distraction or use to rest? Using my brain brings on symptoms, I can barely read, remember how to function, or get things done. If screens are out, on top of books, what else can I do? Everything used my brain! With a not so helpful article of what not to do, can you please tell us what to do instead? I am 30 and been PCS since I was 21 and hopefully have a whole life ahead of me, not just getting through high school.

  9. Aaron Wodman says:

    I don’t get it this is off a basis that electronics have only a 30hz refresh rate which WAS a thing about 10 YEARS ago

    screens have gotten better even with tv’s having a 144hz refresh rate or more and monitors are even better

    even watching a movie on a tv that has only 60hz there assuming the movie material is 24fps there will be no flickering because of the high refresh rate

  10. Mike says:

    Do plasma TV’s also operate with a “refresh rate” concept (same as LDC TV’s)?. is there any way that a plasma TV would not have the same effect on a person with PCS?

  11. Brian hurren says:

    would wearing tinted sun-glasses help with looking at screens? would help dampen down the white and blue light and make it more restfull to look at.

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