Concussion is an injury occurring when the brain is forced to suddenly slide back and forth against the inner skull. Every concussion, even when mild, causes brain injury. Headache, balance and coordination problems, and diminished concentration and memory can result. Bleeding in or around your brain may also result, which can in some cases be fatal.
Concussion is due to jarring from a blow, fall, collision or shaking the head/upper body. This brain injury alters the way your brain functions. Concussions are very common, yet the symptoms can be easy to miss. Concussion may result if you participate in a contact sport, such as football, hockey, or soccer; are involved in a motor vehicle collision; or suffer head trauma in a fall, especially in young children and older adults. You are at higher risk if you have had a previous concussion.
Symptoms of concussion may be obvious or subtle, immediate or delayed. If in any doubt, consult a physician. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Persistent headache or dizziness, ringing in the ears
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or memory/concentration issues; clumsiness; disorientation
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Light or noise sensitivity
- Problems sleeping
- Vision problems; pupils that are dilated or not equally dilated
Immediately seek medical help after a head injury if these symptoms occur:
- Obvious compromise of mental function or coordination
- Unconsciousness for more than one minute
- Vomiting multiple times
Depending on the severity of the injury, a physical exam and assessment of the nervous system will be performed. Tests may include an MRI or CT scan. Time and rest are needed to recover from concussion. Rest is needed from both physical and mental activities, such as reading, watching TV or using a computer. Recovery may take days, weeks or even months if the concussion is severe. Consult your doctor about safe activity levels and do not resume sports or vigorous activities before your doctor advises, as this creates a risk of further permanent brain injury.