Do You Have a Concussion?


Signs, symptoms and next steps when dealing with a potential head injury

One of the biggest issues with the management and recovery of concussion is the fact that it can be so hard to identify. Many people assume that you can only get a concussion if you’re knocked unconscious. But while getting knocked-out can be a sign of concussion, it only happens in less than 10 percent of cases.

Everyone should know what to look for in a concussion in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. While this is especially true for people involved in activities like full-contact sports, understanding all of the symptoms of concussion can help to keep individuals safe.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has a concussion, consider the following:

Potential Causes

Concussion can be caused by a violent blow to your head and neck or upper body. Sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head, caused by events such as a car crash or being violently shaken, also can cause concussion.

Activities and events that may increase the risk of a concussion include falling; participating in a high-risk sport such as football, hockey and soccer; and military combat, among others. Additionally, having a previous concussion that has not healed before experiencing another injury

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of concussion can be subtle and may not immediately show up. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.

Common symptoms after sustaining a concussion include headache, amnesia and confusion. Amnesia associated with concussion usually involves forgetting the event that caused the injury in the first place.

Other signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Appearing dazed
  • Fatigue

While some symptoms of concussions appear immediately, others may be delayed for hours or days after injury, including:

  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Problems with sense of taste and smell

Symptoms in Children

Head trauma can be very common in young children, but concussions can be difficult to recognize in infants and toddlers because they can’t describe how they feel. Parents need to know about the additional concussion clues that present in children, which may include:

  • Listlessness and tiring easily
  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Loss of balance and unsteady walking
  • Excessive crying
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys

Seeking Medical Attention

If you think that you or someone you know has a concussion, see a doctor within 1 to 2 days of experiencing a head injury, even if emergency care isn’t required. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you call your child’s doctor if they experience anything more than a light bump on their head.

If you or someone you know experiences a head injury and has any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek emergency care immediately.

Recovering from Concussion

The good news about concussions is that their outcomes are generally good when addressed immediately. Knowing what a concussion looks like and how it can be caused is the first step in making sure that you and the people you love are able to make a full recovery should a concussion be sustained.

To learn more about concussion, visit our resource library.