A concussion is a mild brain injury. It is usually caused by a bump or blow to the head from a fall, a motor vehicle crash, or a sports injury. Being shaken forcefully may also cause a concussion.
What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Symptoms may occur right away, or they may appear days after the concussion:
- A mild to moderate headache
- Dizziness, loss of balance, or blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- A change in mood, such as restlessness or irritability
- Trouble thinking, remembering things, or concentrating
- Ringing in the ears
- Drowsiness or decreased energy
- Changes in your normal sleeping pattern
How is a concussion diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask how you were injured, and about your symptoms. He or she will also examine you. You may need any of the following:
- A neurologic exam is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after your injury. Healthcare providers will check how your pupils react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
- CT or MRI pictures may be taken of your head. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
How is a concussion managed?
Usually no treatment is needed for a mild concussion. Concussion symptoms usually go away within about 10 days, but they may last longer. The following may be recommended to manage your symptoms:
- Rest from physical and mental activities as directed. Mental activities are those that require thinking, concentration, and attention. You will need to rest until your symptoms are gone. Rest will allow you to recover from your concussion. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work and other daily activities.
- Have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours after your injury. Your healthcare provider should be contacted if your symptoms get worse, or you develop new symptoms.
- Do not participate in sports and physical activities until your healthcare provider says it is okay. They could make your symptoms worse or lead to another concussion. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay for you to return to sports or physical activities. Ask for more information about sports concussions.
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
- NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
How can I help prevent another concussion?
- Wear protective sports equipment that fits properly. Helmets help decrease your risk for a serious brain injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can decrease your risk for a concussion if you play sports.
- Wear your seatbelt every time you travel. This helps to decrease your risk for a head injury if you are in a car accident.
Have someone call 911 for any of the following:
- You cannot be woken.
- You have a seizure, increasing confusion, or a change in personality.
- Your speech becomes slurred.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have sudden and new vision problems.
- You have a severe headache that does not go away.
- You have arm or leg weakness, numbness, or new problems with coordination.
- You have blood or clear fluid coming out of the ears or nose.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have nausea or are vomiting.
- You feel more sleepy than usual.
- Your symptoms get worse.
- Your symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.