Concussion Symptoms: Signs to Watch Out For After a Head Injury

Concussion Symptoms: Signs to Watch Out For After a Head Injury. Learn about the common signs and symptoms of a concussion, including headache, dizziness, and more.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It impacts how your brain works.1 You might have headaches, trouble focusing, memory issues, balance problems, changes in mood, and sleep troubles.1

Usually, concussions occur after a hit to your head or body. This impact changes your brain’s usual function.1 Falls are a big reason behind concussions.1 They’re also common in sports like football and soccer.1 The good news is most people do recover fully from a concussion.1

Key Takeaways

  • Concussions are caused by an impact to the head or body that affects brain function.
  • Falls are the most common cause of concussions, and they are also common in contact sports.
  • Concussion symptoms can include headaches, trouble with concentration, memory, balance, mood, and sleep.
  • Most people recover fully from a concussion, but symptoms can last for days, weeks, or even longer.
  • Seeking medical attention is crucial, especially if symptoms persist or worsen.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It affects how your brain works.1 It’s like a sudden change in your brain that happens because of a hit or a fall. This can lead to momentary loss of consciousness or confusion.1 Another source says it’s when the brain is injured, causing a temporary break in how it works.2

Causes of Concussions

If you hit your head directly from a fall or by being hit, you could get a concussion.1 They also happen when your head moves back and forth quickly, like in a car crash or with a hard hit.1 The third source explains that the skull protects our brain but can’t reduce all the shock from a strong hit.3 When we hit our head or stop suddenly, our brain can hit the skull. This might damage blood vessels, nerves, and brain tissue.3

Common Concussion Symptoms

Physical Symptoms

Concussions bring a lot of physical symptoms. You might have a headache, ringing in your ears, or feel like throwing up.1 Feeling tired, seeing things blurry, and just not feeling right are also signs.1 Still, a CT scan might not show any big changes in your brain. It’s more about tiny damages to brain cells.3

Cognitive Symptoms

Concussions can mess with your thinking, too. You might feel confused, forget parts of what happened, or see stars.1 And these troubles might show up days later. For example, having a hard time focusing or remembering things.1

Emotional Symptoms

After a concussion, your emotions might change. Feeling moody, upset, or very irritable is common.1 It’s also possible to feel down or depressed.1

Some folks keep having these emotional and mood changes for weeks or even months. This is called post-concussive syndrome.3

Signs of a Concussion in Children

Spotting concussions in babies and young kids can be hard. They can’t always say how they feel. But, you might see some signs. These include being dazed, tired easily, and acting grumpy. They might also have trouble walking straight, cry a lot, or act differently with food and sleep. Kids might even lose interest in their toys or throw up.1

Another sign is if a kid seems out of it or sleepy after a bump. They could show physical hints like a headache or feeling dizzy. Thinking might seem slow, or they might act moody and sad.4 If symptoms get worse, get them to a doctor fast.4

Children with concussions don’t always pass out. This means we should watch them closely, even if it seems small at first.5 Signs include headaches, feeling sick, being off-balance, or seeing blurry. They might dislike loud noises or bright lights, and they could be tired a lot. Some might have trouble focusing, remembering, act confused, or change their mood or behavior. Sleep might not come easy either.5

concussion in kids

When to Seek Medical Attention

If someone hits their head, keep an eye out for these signs: repeated vomiting or nausea, a loss of consciousness for over 30 seconds, worsening headaches, and draining fluid or blood from the nose or ears. Notice if they have vision changes, ringing ears that won’t stop, or weakness in the arms or legs. Look out for behavior changes, confusion, slurred speech, or seizures. Don’t ignore dizziness or if symptoms get worse over time.1

These are severe signs of a possible concussion and need urgent care.1 Even with mild concussions, getting checked is critical. They could cause serious issues if not treated correctly.

It’s a must to get checked soon to confirm a concussion and for the right care.6 Not treating a concussion can cause more problems, like post-concussion syndrome or a second bad brain injury.1

Concussion Red FlagsImmediate Action Required
Repeated vomiting or nauseaSeek emergency care
Loss of consciousness longer than 30 secondsSeek emergency care
Headache that worsens over timeSeek emergency care
Fluid or blood draining from nose or earsSeek emergency care
Vision or eye changesSeek emergency care
Weakness in arms or legsSeek emergency care
Changes in behaviorSeek emergency care
Confusion or disorientationSeek emergency care
Slurred speech or other speech changesSeek emergency care
Changes in physical coordinationSeek emergency care
Seizures or convulsionsSeek emergency care
Persistent dizzinessSeek emergency care
Symptoms that worsen over timeSeek emergency care
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Knowing the signs and getting fast help boosts recovery chances. It also prevents long-term harm.16

Diagnosis and Evaluation

While advanced imaging techniques like MRI and CT scans can find structural brain injuries, they’re not the first choice for concussions.7 This is because these tests may not show major brain changes. Plus, CT scans use radiation which is not great.7 Since concussions are about metabolism and cell level damage, they may look normal on scans.

Cognitive and Balance Tests

Sports trainers and doctors often use special tests to check for concussions.8 At the beginning of the season, athletes take baseline tests like the SAC, SCAT 5, MACE, King-Devick, and BESS to know their normal scores.8 If an athlete gets hurt, they take these tests again. A drop in their results compared to normal shows a possible concussion.7

concussion evaluation

Doctors also use the ACE, PCSS, ImPACT, and C3 Logix to look at symptoms, thinking skills, and balance.8 Along with a deep medical check-up, these tests are important for diagnosing and tracking concussion recovery.8

Concussion Risks and Prevalence

Sports with lots of contact pose a high risk for concussions. The first source names sports like American football, hockey, soccer, and more as risky.2 The third source points out that sports such as boxing, football, and skiing also have high concussion risk.

High-Risk Sports and Activities

Many sports increase the chance of getting a concussion. For example, American football, hockey, and rugby are listed by the first source.2 The third source highlights boxing, ice or roller hockey, and basketball. It includes baseball, soccer, and skiing too as high-risk activities.

Age Groups at Higher Risk

The risk of concussion varies by age. People over 75, kids 0-4, and those aged 15-24 are most at risk. In the U.S., over 800,000 kids get emergency care for TBIs every year.9

Concussion Symptoms: Signs to Watch Out For

Concussions come with many signs that we should take seriously. These include being confused, having a headache and issues with your eyes. You might also feel dizzy, sick, or forget things. Hearing noises in your ears, finding it hard to focus, or light bothering you are all possible.1The third source says mild concussions shouldn’t be ignored. There’s no such thing as a concussion that’s not a big deal.

It’s vital to spot the signs of concussion. Everyone’s concussion symptoms can be different. So, keep an eye on how you think, feel, and act to catch a concussion early.

Concussions can happen in sports with a lot of contact, from falls, or other accidents. Always stay alert for signs of concussion. Getting checked out quickly and then getting the right treatment is key for a complete recovery. This also helps avoid serious issues later.

concussion symptoms

Treatment and Management

In most cases, one concussion shouldn’t lead to lasting harm. But if a second happens soon after, the effects could be permanent.7 The historical way to treat concussions was with lots of rest. Now, clinics offer therapies that target specific symptoms. They find the most affected system and choose the right therapy for each symptom.

Rest and Recovery

Concussion symptoms vary, affecting things like vision, balance, and mood.7 A detailed medical check-up is crucial before going back to sports or any activity that could cause another head injury. The new treatment methods focus on managing individual symptoms.10

Targeted Therapies

Clinics dedicated to concussion care help figure out which systems are most impacted. They then offer therapies specifically suited for each case. This personalized care is more effective than a general approach. The need for custom treatment plans has been stressed by various sources, highlighting their significance.

Complications of Concussions

Post-Concussion Syndrome

After a concussion, some folks deal with ongoing issues. These include problems with memory and focus, feeling moody, or different, and changes in how they act. They may also have headaches, feel tired a lot, have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much for many weeks or even months. Doctors call this post-concussive syndrome.2 People with these symptoms should avoid activities where they might hit their head again.

Second Impact Syndrome

Second impact syndrome is a dangerous condition. It happens when someone gets a second concussion before fully recovering from the first. The brain can swell very quickly, and this can lead to very high pressure inside the skull. This pressure can be hard to lower or control.2 The CDC says about 1.5 people die each year due to sports concussions. Often, the person has had a concussion before, but it wasn’t found out.

Preventing Concussions

Keeping safe from concussions is very important. There are good ways to do this. The best advice is to get the right helmets or protective headgear. Make sure they’re okayed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for your sport.11 Always wear these safety items in sports like baseball, softball, cycling, and more.11

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It’s also smart to take other steps to avoid concussions. The third source suggests watching younger kids closely and staying out of shallow water. Always wear the right clothes for your sport and don’t play when you feel sick or very tired. Follow all traffic rules and avoid rough terrain when riding a bike or on a skateboard.11

Concussion in Sports

After a concussion, it’s vital that athletes do not jump back into play or intense activities.12 Athletes of all ages should avoid playing the same day they get hurt.12 Experts also say, if you think you have a concussion, do not risk making it worse.12 Instead, getting back to school and physical activities slowly is best when guided by a professional.

Concussion Rates in Different Sports

The University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Research Center reports over 300,000 sports-related concussions every year in the U.S.13 Playing a contact sport means there’s up to a 19% chance of getting a concussion each year.13 In high school alone, over 62,000 concussions happen yearly in contact sports.13

A study by McGill University shows that in college soccer, 60% of players admitted to concussion symptoms each season.14 Soccer’s concussion rates are similar to football’s.14

Return-to-Play Guidelines

Going back to sport too soon after a concussion raises the risk of a second, possibly worse concussion.14 Experts warn against playing on the injury day. They advise a slowly increasing return to learning and activity.12 Getting medical clearance and following proper steps is key to prevent further harm from head injuries.14

Long-Term Effects of Repeated Concussions

Experts study how multiple head injuries impact us over time. These include hits with no clear signs, known as subconcussive injuries. Right now, we don’t have reasons to be sure that hidden head injuries harm brain function for most people. But, athletes who face repeated concussions should think about stepping back from their sports. This is because they carry a higher risk for a dangerous condition called second-impact syndrome.

The lasting impacts from concussions, especially if they happen again, can be serious. Nearly a third of people still feel the effects after their first traumatic brain injury, even with rest and time.15 Those who get several concussionss have a bigger chance of getting more, mainly in the year following the first one.15 This cycle of multiple concussions might cause ongoing issues like headaches, changes in personality, and memory loss.15

Head injuries might mess with things like our vision, balance, and body’s automatic reactions, as well as how our hormones work.15 They may also affect how our main nervous systems interact, altering how we think and move.15 And they can lead to hormone imbalances, like having too little or too much growth hormone or cortisol.15 For many people, how severe these symptoms are after numerous hits is more about their own genetic history than the amount of head injuries they’ve had.15

Those who suffer severe head injuries many times are more at risk of having Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).16 CTE is a disease that gets worse over time, often seen in people with histories of many blows to the head, like athletes.16 The severity of CTE symptoms is tied to how many times someone’s brain has been hurt and how bad each injury was.16

Effects of CTE might not show up until many years later.16 At first, someone with CTE might have headaches, poor memory, mood changes, or trouble with thinking.16 In time, their problems could include trouble speaking clearly, very bad memory loss, or even movement issues similar to Parkinson’s disease.16 CTE can also raise the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is why it’s so important to handle concussions nicely, to avoid bad long-term brain problems.16

The more often a person’s brain gets injured, the more likely they are to have lasting symptoms.15 Thankfully, 90% of people get better after a week of special treatment for their concussion symptoms.15

Resources and Support

If you need help for a concussion, there are many places to turn to. The UC Davis Health TBI Clinic in Sacramento can help diagnose and treat TBIs. This includes problems like headaches, vertigo, and balancing issues. The clinic is open on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call them at 916-734-430017.

The Concussion Story Wall has over 4,000 videos to teach the public about concussions. A helpful read is the article “Concussion Myths: Straight From the Experts.” It explains 11 common misunderstandings about head injuries17. The Sheltering Arms Institute Concussion Support Group also offers help for those getting over a concussion17.

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Interested in helping with concussion research? VCU is running the TBI Resilience Study and they pay volunteers. By using these resources and services, you can get the help and information needed for a good recovery17.


A concussion is a mild traumatic injury to the brain. It can cause immediate problems like headaches, difficulty concentrating, and unsteadiness.2 They often happen in sports and activities with a high risk. Getting medical help right away is important. This can prevent further complications.2 Wearing protective gear and staying safe can prevent concussions. Most people fully recover with the right treatment.3

In 2014, the U.S. saw about 2.87 million TBI-related visits to the ER and hospitalizations.3 In a year, more than 800,000 kids get TBI care in the U.S.3 People most affected are over 75, kids under 4, and those 15-24 years old.3 There are more than 300,000 sports-related concussions yearly in the U.S. The risk of concussion in contact sports is up to 19% a season.3 Every year, over 62,000 high school athletes get concussions. In college football, 34% had one concussion, and 20% had more.3 Between 4-20% of college and high school football players sustain a brain injury each season. About 60% of college soccer players also get concussion symptoms annually.3 Sadly, an average of 1.5 deaths yearly in sports are due to concussions.3

Most concussion symptoms go away in 14 to 21 days. But, if not treated well, it can take much longer to recover.3 When returning to school or sports, it should be done slowly. Changes like shorter days and more time for schoolwork help.3 Avoid aspirin and NSAIDs. They can increase bleeding risk. Instead, use acetaminophen for pain.3 Staying well-fed and hydrated is key. It keeps blood sugar balanced and prevents symptoms from getting worse.3


What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It affects how the brain works. This injury comes from a hit or a fall.

What are the common causes of concussions?

You can get a concussion by getting hit on the head. Falling or being in an accident can also cause them. Some concussions happen without a direct hit by a sudden shaking or force to the head.

What are the common symptoms of a concussion?

Physical signs of a concussion are a headache, ringing in the ears, and feeling sick.Cognitive symptoms are confusion or memory loss, and feeling dizzy. Changes in mood and behavior might also happen.

How can I recognize a concussion in a young child?

Look for these signs in a child: They may seem dazed, easily tired, or upset. They might cry a lot or act differently with eating or sleeping.Kids with a concussion may not want to play with usual toys. Vomiting is also a sign to watch for.

When should I seek emergency care for a head injury?

Go to the ER if someone hits their head and has these signs: keeps throwing up or can’t wake up.Also, if their headache gets bad, they leak fluid or blood from their nose, or their eyes change. Any sign of not feeling right is a reason to check with a doctor.

How are concussions diagnosed?

Doctors don’t usually need a scan to see a concussion. They look at how the patient does on balance and memory tests.These tests compare today’s condition with how the person was before the season started.

What sports and activities have a higher risk of concussions?

Sports like American football, hockey, and soccer have high chances of causing a concussion. Boxing and rugby also have risks due to physical contact.This danger is not only in contact sports but also activities like skiing, basketball, and baseball.

Who is at the highest risk for concussions?

People aged 75 and above, children under 4, and youth aged 15-24 are most at risk.This age range shows the highest number of traumatic brain injuries, including concussions.

What are the potential complications of a concussion?

One concussion usually won’t cause permanent harm. But getting a second one shortly after the first can lead to severe and lasting effects.Some may face a range of symptoms for weeks or months. These include memory issues, mood swings, and extreme fatigue.

How can concussions be prevented?

Wearing the right helmet for your sport is key in preventing concussions. Make sure it meets the ASTM standards.Also, follow safety rules when diving, wear the right gear, and be cautious of where you play.

What are the guidelines for returning to play after a concussion?

If a concussion is suspected, stop playing right away. Do not play again the same day, experts say.Returning to sports should be a slow, supervised process. A healthcare professional should oversee the return to activity and learning.

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