What is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of severe brain damage that affects your brain function. Headaches and difficulties with focus, memory, balance, and coordination are common symptoms of concussion. A hit to the head is the most common cause of concussions. Concussions can also be caused by violent shaking of the head and upper body. This damage also causes chemical and metabolic changes within brain cells, making cell function and communication more challenging. Because the brain is the body’s control center, concussions can have far-reaching consequences.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Because a concussion does not show up on imaging such as an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan, and there is no objective test to identify if a patient has a concussion, such as collecting blood or saliva, the signs and symptoms of a concussion are extremely significant. A concussion diagnosis is made by a doctor based on the results of a thorough examination, which includes examining indicators of concussion and patients describing symptoms of concussion that arise after an injury to the head or body.
Children and teenagers who display or report one or more of the following signs and symptoms, or just claim they “don’t feel right” after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, may have a concussion or a more serious brain injury.
Concussion signs and symptoms can be subtle and may not appear right away. The signs and symptoms might linger for days, weeks, or even months.
Headache, memory loss (amnesia), and confusion are common after a concussive traumatic brain injury. The most common symptom of amnesia is forgetting the event that triggered the concussion.
Concussion signs are what someone could observe about you to determine if you have a concussion. Concussion symptoms can range from evident to subtle, but any evidence of a concussion following a head injury should be reported to a medical expert.
Common concussion signs include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Problems with balance
- Glazed look in the eyes
- Delayed response to questions
- Forgetting an instruction, confusion about an assignment or position, or confusion of the game, score, or opponent
- Inappropriate crying
- Inappropriate laughter
Concussion symptoms are what someone who is concussed will tell you they are experiencing. When responding to a possible concussion in a child, keep in mind that due to their age and limited vocabulary, as well as the fact that they have just had a brain injury, a concussed child may not be able to accurately explain the symptoms they are feeling. There are four major categories of concussion symptoms:
- Somatic (Physical) Symptoms
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Cognitive Symptoms
- Difficulties with attention
- Memory problems
- Loss of focus
- Difficulty multitasking
- Difficulty completing mental tasks
- Sleep Symptoms
- Sleeping more than usual
- Sleeping less than usual
- Having trouble falling asleep
- Emotional Symptoms
- Panic attacks
Note that this is not a full list of concussion signs and symptoms, and concussion symptoms may occur several days after the initial incident.
Seek emergency care for an adult or child who experiences a head injury and signs and symptoms such as:
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- A loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds
- A headache that gets worse over time
- Fluid or blood draining from the nose or ears
- Vision or eye disturbances, such as pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes
- Ringing in the ears that doesn’t go away
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Appearing very pale for longer than an hour
- Changes in behavior
- Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognizing people or places
- Slurred speech or other changes in speech
- Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
- Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness
- Seizures or convulsions
- Lasting or recurrent dizziness
- Symptoms that worsen over time
- Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children, especially in infants under 12 months of age
While indications or symptoms of a concussion are evident, never return to play or severe activities.
While still experiencing concussion symptoms, experts advise that an athlete with a suspected concussion not return to activities that are linked to a higher risk of another concussion.
A health care practitioner trained in evaluating and managing pediatric concussions should examine children and adolescents.
Adult, child, and adolescent athletes with concussions should not return to play on the same day as the injury, according to experts.