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Concussion - Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Concussion -  Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. Read about the causes, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Written by

Dr. Lochana .k

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gursimran Singh

Published At December 10, 2020
Reviewed AtSeptember 14, 2023

What Does a Concussion Mean?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that results from a blow to the head. It can affect brain function, which is generally temporary. It can lead to headaches, concentration problems, memory loss, poor balance, and coordination. Concussions can also result from violent shaking or a jolt to the head (whiplash-type injury), which makes the brain move violently back and forth inside the skull. Sometimes, the person might also lose consciousness.

The most common cause of concussion is a fall. It is also a common contact sports injury or injury sustained due to a car crash. This TBI is usually not life-threatening but needs immediate medical attention if it leads to severe symptoms.

Are Concussions and Contusions the Same?

Concussions and contusions are quite different. A contusion, otherwise called a bruise, is the blackish discoloration of the skin due to the collection of blood underneath. This blood gets pooled because of injury to the small blood vessels or capillaries. Contusions can also occur in the head.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion?

The signs and symptoms can be subtle and can last for weeks after the injury. The common signs include:

  • Headache.

  • Amnesia - Loss of memory, usually related to the traumatic event.

  • Confusion.

The other physical signs and symptoms are:

  • Tinnitus - Ringing in the ears.

  • Vomiting.

  • Nausea.

  • Fatigue.

  • Blurry vision.

  • Brain fog.

  • Dizziness.

Some people may also experience:

  • Concentration problems.

  • Personality changes.

  • Irritability.

  • Depression.

  • Loss of taste and smell.

  • Light and sound sensitivity.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Slurred speech.

Signs and symptoms in children:

As children do cannot tell you how they feel, look out for these signs and symptoms if your child had a head injury recently:

  • Cry excessively.

  • Change in sleeping patterns.

  • Show no interest in things he or she likes.

  • Get tired easily.

  • The child might appear dazed (inability to react properly).

  • Become more cranky.

  • Walk unsteadily.

  • Vomiting.

  • Seizures.

What Are the Causes of a Concussion?

As the hard skull surrounds the brain, it is cushioned by the cerebrospinal fluid to prevent injury due to everyday jolts. This cushioning is not sufficient when your head or neck encounters a violent blow, which makes the brain move and hit the skull from inside. The common causes for such injury are:

  • A fall.

  • High-risk sports like football, rugby, and boxing.

  • Motor vehicle accidents.

  • Physical abuse.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Concussion?

When you visit the hospital after a head injury, the doctor will:

  • Perform a physical examination.

  • Perform a neurological examination to evaluate your vision, strength, sensations, hearing, reflexes, balance, and coordination.

  • Evaluate your thinking skills, which include your memory and concentration.

  • Check for changes in pupil size, light sensitivities, and eye movements.

If needed, you might have to get an MRI scan or a CT scan of your brain. This will help the doctor to check for serious brain injuries. If you have seizures, the doctor might perform an electroencephalogram to monitor your brain waves.

How Is a Concussion Treated?

Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your doctor will decide the treatment. If your brain is bleeding, or if the brain swells or the brain is seriously injured, then you might need surgery.

This being said, most concussions do not require surgery. The other treatment options include:

  1. Painkillers (Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen) for headaches.

  2. Get plenty of rest.

  3. Avoid sports and other strenuous activities.

  4. Do not drive a vehicle for 24 hours or a few weeks (based on how severe your symptoms are).

  5. Avoid drinking, as it might slow recovery.

What Are the Possible Complications of Concussion?

  1. Post-traumatic headaches - Headaches that can last for up to a week after a brain injury.

  2. Post-traumatic vertigo - Some people have vertigo (a feeling of dizziness) for days or weeks.

  3. Post-concussion syndrome - The symptoms of a concussion last for weeks or months rather than some days.

  4. Second impact syndrome - When a second concussion occurs before the symptoms of a first concussion have resolved, it may cause fatal brain swelling.

  5. Brain injuries.

Preventive Tips:

The following tips might minimize the risk of head injury:

  1. While playing sports or other recreational activities, wear protective gear.

  2. The protective gear should fit properly and worn correctly.

  3. Install window guards and block stairways if you have a child at home.

  4. Improve your balance by exercising regularly.

  5. Wear a helmet while riding a bike or motorcycling.

  6. Wear a seat belt while driving, as it may prevent serious head injury during an accident.

  7. Childproof your apartment. This will prevent your child from falling or tripping over, which is the leading cause of a concussion.

Most patients recover from concussions in a few weeks. In some, the symptoms might last for months after the injury. Sometimes, patients experience emotional, physical, or mental changes that are long-lasting. Make sure you rest and avoid repeat concussions to prevent permanent brain damage.

Are you suffering from similar symptoms after a head injury? Talk to an experienced neurologist online through phone or video call.

Frequently Asked Questions


How To Identify If I Have a Concussion?

You can identify that you have a concussion with the following symptoms:
- Confusion.
- Headaches.
- Dizziness or like seeing stars.
- Amnesia (loss of memory) about the traumatic event.


How Long Can a Concussion Remain?

The symptoms of a concussion should resolve within one to six weeks on average, but some people suffer from symptoms for much longer. Post-concussion syndrome is also a complex disorder where various symptoms persist for weeks or even months after a concussion occurs. Neglecting the treatment can lead to long-term complications.


What Will Happen if a Concussion Is Left Untreated?

Untreated concussions may result in long-term complications, like chronic headaches, confusion, memory loss, and vertigo. And post-concussion syndrome may include headaches, dizziness, mood swings, and brain fog that can last months or years after a concussion.


How Will Your Eyes Look When You Have a Concussion?

When you have a concussion, the eyes may have one or more of the following problems:
- Blurred or double vision.
- Sensitivity to light and photophobia.
- Eye or ocular pain.
- Partial vision loss.
- Visual motion sensitivity.
- Abnormal eye movements.
- Vertical heterophoria.


Can a Person Go to Sleep With a Concussion?

The concept of not letting a person sleep after a concussion is to protect them from further damage. If a person goes to sleep following a head injury, they and those around them may miss the possible signs and symptoms of a brain injury. But suppose the patient has been evaluated by a doctor, especially after having a CAT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). In that case, he is allowed to go to routine sleep.


When Should You Worry About a Concussion?

After a head injury, you may have a concussion or a mild brain injury. You need to get immediate medical aid if you have symptoms of a concussion after a fall or a blow to the head. These include:
- Headache.
- Dizziness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Blurred vision or double vision.
- Drowsiness.
- Feeling sluggish.
- Balancing problems
- Slowed reaction time.


How Will a Concussion Headache Feel Like?

After a concussion, you may experience a headache that can be similar to a migraine headache. This pain usually occurs towards the front of your head, near your forehead, or temple. A pounding or throbbing pain is commonly felt. It has been linked to nausea, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.


Will a Concussion Get Worsened?

A single concussion usually does not cause any permanent damage to your brain. Still, a mild concussion when untreated or multiple concussions over a lifetime may result in structural changes in your brain. But concussions are not a life-threatening condition.


What To Avoid After a Concussion?

Things you should avoid after a concussion may include strenuous activities or activities which may lead to excessive physical and mental stress. In addition, activities that increase the concussion symptoms like headache, blurred or double vision, nausea should be avoided.


What Will Happen if a Mild Concussion Is Not Treated?

Concussion, if left untreated, the pain experienced from the fracture will likely worsen as time goes on. The main reason for an untreated fracture is due to improper healing. This can result in visible deformities, misalignment, limited movement, and infection.


How Long Should You Take Rest After a Concussion?

Soon after a concussion, the acute phase, the experts may recommend about 24–72 hours of rest. During this time, individuals must cut back all their activities like work, school, sports, and housework.


Which Activities Can Cause a Concussion?

Activities and factors that increase the risk of a concussion include:
- Falling.
- Participating in a high-risk sport, like football, hockey, rugby, soccer, boxing, or other contact sports.
- Participating in sports without proper safety equipment and supervision.
- Being a soldier involved in combat.
- Being involved in a motor vehicle collision.
- Being a victim of physical abuse.
- Having had a previous concussion.


When Is a Concussion Considered To Be Serious?

A concussion is considered to be serious when you have the following symptoms:
- Extreme drowsiness.
- Inability to recognize familiar people or places.
- One pupil is larger than the other.
- Fever of 100.5°F or higher.
- Seizures or convulsions.
- Slurred speech.
- Abnormal behavior, like extreme confusion or irritability.
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Dr. Gursimran Singh
Dr. Gursimran Singh



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