How to Check Eyes for Concussion – Signs & Symptoms

How to check eyes for concussion - Look for unequal pupil size, sluggish pupil response to light, rapid eye movements, double vision, light sensitivity.

Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) happen often in contact sports. A big sign of a concussion is changes in how the eyes work and see things1. Almost 90% of those who get a concussion will have eye issues1. This is more than any other problem caused by the injury. In this article, we’ll look at how to check the eyes for signs of a concussion. We’ll focus on dilated or unequal pupils, trouble with eye tracking or moving, and sensitivity to light. Also, we’ll talk about the tests used to look at eye symptoms, balance, and brain function. These tests help doctors find out if someone has a concussion. It’s really important to get medical help right away if the symptoms are serious. And knowing how to recover from a concussion properly, including helping your eyes get better, is also vital.

Key Takeaways

  • Concussions can cause changes in eye function and vision, including dilated or unequal pupils, eye tracking issues, and light sensitivity.
  • Standardized assessment tools like the SCAT5 and King-Devick test are used to evaluate eye symptoms, balance, and cognitive function after a suspected concussion.
  • Immediate medical attention is crucial for severe concussion symptoms, while vision rehabilitation may be necessary for persistent visual issues.
  • Baseline testing before the sports season and sideline evaluations can help identify concussions and monitor recovery.
  • Proper diagnosis and management of concussions, including necessary tests and imaging, should be done by healthcare providers.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) from a hit or jolt to the head1. It affects how your brain works. Even if it’s called “mild,” concussions are serious. You can get them from falls, car accidents, or playing sports.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

This injury disrupts your brain’s normal work when your head gets hit or shaken. It causes physical, thinking, and feeling changes. These are symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Common Causes of Concussions

Concussions happen a lot in car wrecks, falls, fights, and sports like football and boxing2. It’s very important to quickly see a doctor if you think someone has a concussion. This helps stop more damage and makes recovery better.

Eye Symptoms as Warning Signs of Concussion

Many people, about 90%, see changes in their eyes after a concussion1. Signs can be things like big or different sized pupils, trouble following objects with the eyes, and eyes moving quickly and suddenly1. They might also find light too bright, see double, or have a hard time focusing their sight1. Eye movements and vision issues are common because the eyes are closely linked to the brain1. Being aware of these eye symptoms is crucial. It can help spot a concussion early and show that medical help is needed.

Dilated or Unequal Pupils

One easily seen effect of a concussion is big or different sized pupils. This happens because the brain doesn’t work properly after an injury1. Checking the size and how pupils react to light tells a lot about a concussion’s seriousness. This could mean it’s time to see a doctor right away.

Eye Tracking and Movement Issues

A head injury can mess with how the eyes move. Problems watching a moving object smoothly or eyes moving in a jerky way could mean a concussion1. These issues with watching and moving the eyes are common after a head injury. They might make it tough to do daily activities.

Light Sensitivity (Photophobia)

After a concussion, many people can’t handle bright light, a condition called photophobia1. This can lead to headaches and feeling sick. So, it’s wise to avoid strong light, screens, and bright objects until feeling better.

concussion eye symptoms

How to Check Eyes for Concussion

Checking for a concussion involves simple eye tests. Looking closely, you can tell if a brain injury is possible3. By checking pupil size, you might find signs of trouble.

The way eyes move is another clue. A eye movement test shows how well they follow things3. This can be off after a concussion.

Vision Tracking Assessment is also vital. It checks how eyes track moving objects3. This can help spot a concussion.

Concussion Assessment Tools

Doctors use many tools to check for concussions. One key tool is the SCAT5, which looks at how you think and move. It includes questions about symptoms, memory, and balance3. There’s also the King-Devick test. It’s a quick numbers test that shows how well your eyes and brain work together3. These tests are important but don’t replace a full medical checkup.

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SCAT5 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool)

The SCAT5 is a detailed test that takes around 15 to 20 minutes. It looks at if you have any of 22 symptoms. Plus, it checks your memory and balance, and how your nerves work3. It gives the doctor a lot of information to see if you might have a concussion.

King-Devick Test

The King-Devick test is all about reading numbers quickly. If you’re five seconds slower after a hit, it might mean you have a concussion3. This test is great at catching issues with your eyes and brain after a hit.

Balance and Coordination Tests

Checking balance and coordination is key in a concussion check. Both can be hurt by head injuries. The BESS test is used for this. It looks at how someone stands, on a solid or wobbly floor3. It notes if the person makes mistakes, like taking hands off hips. These errors help find out if someone is concussed. Then, doctors might check them more.

Tests for concussions look at how the brain works after a hit to the head4. They test both physical and mental skills, from balance to memory and problem-solving4. Athletes do these tests at the start of the season, and again if they hit their head4. Getting hit again makes recovery take longer, especially in young people and girls4. Doing easy exercise early on can help get better4. It’s important for athletes to slowly get back into playing, step by step4.

At first, concussion screenings might be on a computer, like playing a game4. Later, after a hit, they might check your balance and how your eyes move4. Doctors use these, plus how you feel and physical checks, to see if it’s safe to play again4. If the symptoms of a concussion stay, you shouldn’t play, even if tests look okay4. After a hit, how long it takes to get better isn’t the same for everyone4.

Computerized Neurocognitive Tests

Computerized neurocognitive tests are key in assessing concussions. The ImPACT is a popular test that looks at memory, speed, and reaction time. It also checks other brain functions3.

The C3 Logix, from the Cleveland Clinic, examines cognition, balance, and vision. This helps doctors diagnose and treat concussions3.

Before an injury, doctors use these tests to create baseline measurements. Later, they compare these baselines to post-injury results. This helps them spot if a concussion happened.

ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing)

The ImPACT test contains a section where you report things like sports, drug and alcohol use, and learning issues. It also tests your memory, reaction time, and ability to follow numbers3.

C3 Logix

The C3 Logix app helps record injuries and check for problems. It guides recovery from symptoms and decides when it’s safe to go back to playing sports3.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Symptoms of a concussion can often get better with rest. But, some signs tell you to get help right away1. If you notice a big difference in pupil sizes, a headache that keeps getting worse, or if someone is very sleepy and not waking up easily, that’s a sign to act fast1. Seizures, acting strangely, being confused, weak, or losing consciousness are also serious. Anyone showing these signs should see a doctor quickly1. For kids, if they can’t be comforted or don’t want to eat or nurse, it’s a sign something might be very wrong1. These signs could mean a severe brain injury that needs medical attention as soon as possible.

Warning Signs of Serious Brain Injury

Not all concussions are the same. Some signs mean you must get help now1. Passing out, a very bad headache, feeling lost or sleepy, throwing up, being weak, unable to feel parts of your body, having seizures, or sudden behavior changes are all very serious symptoms1. If you see these, quickly call 911 or go to the ER. They might show a major brain injury that needs urgent treatment.

Concussion Recovery and Vision Rehabilitation

To recover from a concussion, start with rest for your mind and body5. Avoid screens and loud places. Be sure not to do sports or intense exercises until your symptoms go away5. For those with long-lasting vision issues like being sensitive to light, special eye exercises can help. They work to improve how your eyes move and see5.

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Rest and Activity Modification

After you get a concussion, it’s vital to rest your brain5. This means taking a break from schoolwork, staying away from bright lights and loud noises, and not doing sports. Wait for the ok from your doctor before doing these activities again5.

Vision Therapy Exercises

If you still have vision problems after a concussion, like blurry eyes or struggling to focus, vision therapy exercises could really help5. These exercises won’t hurt but might be expensive6. Home-based vision therapy, though, might make it more affordable. It lets you do the exercises at home and see the specialist less often6.

For the best recovery, having a treatment plan that deals with both brain and vision issues is key567.

Baseline and Sideline Concussion Testing

Before sports seasons start, many student-athletes take baseline concussion tests3. These tests look at their thinking, balance, and other abilities. They create a starting point for comparing any later injuries. If an athlete gets hurt and a concussion is suspected, they are tested again. This is to see if their current scores match their starting scores3.

Teams also use sideline tests to quickly check an athlete after a possible injury. These tests help decide if it’s safe for the athlete to go back in the game3.

SCAT 5Comprehensive concussion evaluation tool15-20 minutes3
King-DevickRapid number-reading assessment for eye movement and processing speed1-2 minutes3
BESSBalance error scoring system measuring postural stability20 seconds per stance3
ACECollects data on 22 concussion symptoms and risk factorsN/A3
PCSSSymptom checklist ranking 21 symptoms by severityN/A3
ImPACTCognitive testing for memory, reaction time, and visual processing speedN/A3
C3 LogixMobile app for concussion management comparing post-injury to baseline dataN/A3

Remember, only doctors should say if someone has a concussion. Yet, you can help by remembering details about the injury. This includes what happened and how the person acted after3.

Diagnosing a Concussion

Diagnosing a concussion starts with a detailed medical history and physical exam1. The doctor will ask about how the injury happened and if there was unconsciousness. They will check for symptoms1. Next, they’ll perform a physical check. This includes looking at the eyes, testing balance, and thinking abilities.

Medical History and Physical Exam

The medical history part involves knowing the injury details. They’ll ask if there was a loss of consciousness and find out the symptoms2. In the physical exam, they will look at the pupils, test eye movements, and see how good the balance is2.

Imaging Tests (CT Scan, MRI)

Sometimes, they might use imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI2. These are to check for more severe head injuries. While not for diagnosing a concussion by themselves, they give the medical team clues on brain damage2.

Tools like CT scans and MRIs are helpful. But, diagnosing a concussion mainly depends on symptoms, health history, and the exam1. The aim is to find any brain injury. Then, the team can create a treatment to help the patient heal.

Home Assessment for Suspected Concussion

A healthcare provider should check a suspected concussion but you can also do early checks at home. Talk to the person and ask them their name, the date, and about what just happened. This starts their home concussion assessment2.

Questions to Ask

Asking questions can give hints about a questions for concussion. Questions like:

  • What is your name?
  • Do you know where you are and what day it is?
  • Can you describe what just happened?
  • Can you repeat a series of numbers or words back to me?
  • Are you experiencing any unusual symptoms like headache, dizziness, or nausea?

Observations to Note

Watching for signs is also crucial for observations for concussion. Watch for these signs:

  • Dilated or unequal pupils2
  • Slurred speech
  • Unusual eye movements or difficulty tracking objects
  • Changes in balance or coordination
  • Confusion or disorientation
See also  What Will the ER Do for a Concussion? Overview & Steps

Telling a doctor about these observations can help. But, always see a professional for a full assessment2.

how to check eyes for concussion

Pupil Reactivity Test

To check for a concussion, experts often look at the eyes. They might use a pupil reactivity test. In this test, they shine a light in your eyes. They want to see how your pupils react. If you have a concussion, your pupils might be:

  • dilated
  • different sizes
  • respond slowly to light.


Eye Tracking and Movement Assessment

They might also examine how your eyes move. After a concussion, your eyes might not follow a moving object smoothly. They might also make sudden, jerky movements1. These tests are simple. They are a key part of checking for a concussion. A healthcare provider usually does them as part of a bigger check-up3.


Spotting eye problems early is vital to spot and handle concussions well. Signs like big or different-sized pupils and issues like not following things well, hating light, and sight troubles, show a possible brain injury. About half of concussion cases lead to sight problems. Knowing how to see these signs and getting help fast can lead to a quick and correct treatment.

Getting over a concussion, eyes included, is key for not getting hurt more and getting back to normal soon. Each year, about 1.4 million kids and teens in the U.S. get concussions. Many have eye issues like not focusing right, eyes not working together properly, and trouble moving their eyes smoothly. Doctors are important because they often spot concussions first and guide the care early on.

Being alert and watching for eye changes helps in a speedy and successful concussion recovery. So, remember, quick action and seeing a doctor right away can help you get better fully and safely from a concussion5.


What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of brain injury. It’s usually mild and happens when the head gets hit. This disrupts how the brain works.

What are the common causes of concussions?

They often happen during car accidents, falls, or when someone is hit. They are also common in sports like football, soccer, hockey, and boxing.

What are some eye-related symptoms of a concussion?

After a concussion, eyes can show many signs. These include big or different-sized pupils, problems tracking objects, and sudden eye movements. People might also find light bright, see double, or have trouble focusing.

How can you check the eyes for signs of a concussion?

To see signs of a concussion, do a pupil check. Also, watch how the eyes move and test how well someone can track moving objects.

What are some standardized tools used to assess concussions?

Doctors use tools like SCAT5, King-Devick, and BESS tests. They also use computer-based tests like ImPACT and C3 Logix to measure brain functions.

When should you seek immediate medical attention for a suspected concussion?

Get help right away if you see these signs: the person passes out, has a really bad headache or acts confused. Other signs are extreme tiredness, throwing up, feeling weak, numb, or having a seizure.

How do you recover from a concussion?

After a concussion, start with rest. Then, slowly go back to regular activities. Doing vision exercises can help with ongoing eye problems.

What is the role of baseline and sideline concussion testing?

Before accidents happen, baseline tests set a normal. Sideline tests check players fast after a hit. This helps decide if it’s safe for them to keep playing.

How do healthcare providers diagnose a concussion?

They will ask about medical history and do a physical exam. They might also use scans to check for other serious brain injuries.

What are some simple steps to check for a concussion at home?

You can check by asking questions and looking for key signs. These include problems with balance, speech, and eyes. Watching for dilated pupils or strange eye movements can also help.

How can you specifically check the eyes for signs of a concussion?

Use tests to check how the pupils and eyes react. Also, see how well the eyes follow moving objects and watch for any unusual eye movements.

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