A concussion is an injury to the brain from a blow to the head, face, neck or body. The sudden injury causes the brain to shake inside the skull.

You can get a concussion by running into another person or object, falling, or even from whiplash. You may not notice symptoms from the concussion right away. Sometimes symptoms do not show up for hours or days after the injury. 

How Do I Recognize Symptoms of Concussion?

You cannot see a concussion on an X-ray, CT scan or even an MRI. Instead, a concussion may affect the way you think or feel – what we call a “functional disturbance.” Common signs and symptoms of a concussion include:

Physical Signs

  • Headache(s)
  • Sensitive to light
  • Sensitive to sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling tired
  • Dizzy or issues with balance
  • Ringing in ears
  • Trouble seeing clearly
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Loss of consciousness

Cognitive Signs

  • Feeling foggy
  • Feeling slow
  • Memory issues
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Trouble thinking clearly

Emotional Signs

  • Irritable
  • More emotional
  • Nervous

Sleeping Signs

  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less

How Are Concussions Diagnosed?

Your doctor or athletic trainer will gather information on the history of injury and the symptoms after the injury. They will do a physical exam and test your memory, vision, balance, coordination, concentration, muscle strength, reflexes and sensation.

Remember, an athlete who has had a head injury may not show symptoms of concussion right away. It is important to watch them for several hours after injury to see if they begin to have any symptoms of concussion.

How Are Concussions Treated?

The early treatment for a concussion is rest, both for your body and your brain. You will need to stop any sports or school until the doctor gives you the OK to return to these activities. Athletes should not return to sports until cleared by their doctor. During recovery, it is important to remember to drink fluids throughout the day, eat balanced meals, keep a consistent sleep schedule, and avoid screen time (cell phone, computer, watching TV). Keep the use of headache medicine (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen) to a minimum since these medicines can make your symptoms worse.

Once your doctor feels it is safe to begin adding more activity to your schedule, they will give you a return-to-play protocol. Generally, there are six stages in the return-to-play protocol, with each stage taking roughly 24 hours. It is important for athletes to follow this schedule as they begin to resume their sport activities.

Can Concussions Be Prevented?

The research for preventing concussion is limited. There are research projects on helmet use, mouth guards, rules changes (for example, no head ball rule in soccer or no body checking in ice hockey), vision training, neck strengthening and improved tackling technique.

Emerging research shows promise for a concussion collar that attempts to change the volume of blood in the brain. That means that there is a “tighter fit” of the brain within the skull to better brace the brain for impact forces.

Last Updated 02/2018

Who Treats This

Who treats this?

Experts in sports medicine, neurology and rehabilitation at Cincinnati Children's treat concussions. Call 513-803-HEAD (4323) for information.

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