Key Points about Concussions

  • A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. There are three grades of concussions ranging from mild (Grade 1) to severe (Grade 3).
  • A concussion typically occurs after a forceful blow to the head.
  • Symptoms of a concussion include memory problems, confusion, dizziness, headaches, and problems balancing.
  • Your doctor can diagnose a concussion. In severe cases, you should be evaluated by a medical professional right away. Your doctor may use eye tests, an MRI, or a CT scan to confirm your diagnosis.
  • Treatment for a concussion may include resting, medications, and avoiding high-risk activities. Athletes must get clearance before returning to a sport after suffering from a concussion.
Common related conditions
Whiplash Neck Sprains and Strains

Overview

A concussion can occur as a result of an impact to the head or from a motion that causes your neck to whip back and forth. People can experience concussions from a car accident, sporting activity, fall, or from their daily activities. Because a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), it can be severe if not treated promptly.

An impact to the head can cause your brain to move around in the skull.

There are three types of concussions:

  • Grade 1 — Patients do not lose consciousness, and symptoms last for 15 minutes or less.
  • Grade 2 — Patients do not lose consciousness, but the symptoms last longer than 15 minutes.
  • Grade 3 — The patient loses consciousness.

Concussion causes

Typically, concussions are caused by a serious impact to the head, neck, or upper body. When this occurs, your brain may move forcefully within the skull.

Common causes of a concussion include:

  • Car accident
  • Contact sports such as football, soccer, and wrestling
  • Sports such as downhill skiing or motorcycle riding
  • Physical abuse
  • Falling

Concussion symptoms

Common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Difficulty remembering details
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Problems balancing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of consciousness - in some people

Symptoms vary from person to person and may develop right away or as long as months after the impact.

Concussion complications

Complications associated with concussions include:

  • Headaches that can develop as long as a few months after the injury.
  • Spinning or dizziness after a concussion. Symptoms may appear as long as a month after your injury.
  • Long-term brain issues as a result of multiple brain injuries.
  • Brain swelling can occur if you suffer a subsequent concussion before symptoms of the first have resolved.

Concussion risk factors

Teens are at the highest risk of suffering a concussion because their brains are still developing.

Several activities can increase your risk of concussion, including:

  • Participating in contact sports such as soccer or football.
  • Participating in high-risk sports such as downhill skiing without a helmet.
  • Being in a car accident.
  • Having a history of concussions.

Concussion prevention

Some concussions can be prevented by following simple guidelines:

  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Buckle children into age-appropriate car seats
  • Wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle or during any activities where you may hit your head
  • Install safety gates or guards around your home to prevent falls

Concussion diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose severe concussions in the emergency room and a mild concussion during a clinic visit. During the visit, your doctor will take your medical history to understand how the injury happened. During a physical examination, your doctor will perform a full exam to determine what your symptoms are.

If you have more severe symptoms, your doctor may order an MRI or a CT scan of the brain. If you are having seizures, you may also need an electroencephalogram to monitor your brain waves.

If you or a loved one experienced a concussion during a sporting event, our doctor may perform an eye test to examine your pupil size, eye movements, and sensitivity to light.

Concussion treatment

Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan for you based on the severity of your symptoms.

Treatments may be:

  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen to relieve pain
  • Avoid sports or strenuous activities
  • Avoid driving a car or riding a motorcycle or bicycle
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol

When to seek care

If you suspect you or a loved one has suffered a concussion, go to a doctor to be evaluated. It is essential to seek medical care right away.

Your doctor will also be able to determine if your concussion is accompanied by an injury to the spine.

Next Steps

If you or a loved one suffered a concussion while participating in sports, do not continue playing until you have been evaluated by a medical professional. You could experience severe repercussions if you have another concussion after your first concussion has healed.

Do not drive, care for infants, or be alone for 24 hours after a concussion. You could lose consciousness as symptoms develop over this period.   Once diagnosed, follow your doctor's treatment and recovery instructions carefully. If your symptoms intensify or worsen, call your doctor right away to discuss the next steps.