Concussions: What you need to know

August 29, 2019

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that can occur after severe impact to your head or after an injury that causes your head and brain to shake quickly back and forth. Anyone can become injured due to a concussion during a fall, car accident or daily activity. Your risk is increased if you play a high-impact sport such as football, boxing, soccer or wrestling. Concussions are not usually life-threatening, but they can cause serious medical complications and should not be overlooked.

It’s important to understand the symptoms of a concussion so that you’ll be able to identify when you or someone else is experiencing one.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

Signs of a concussion may include:

  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Problems walking
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dizziness

These symptoms look different in every situation. For some, symptoms may develop immediately, while others may not begin to notice them for hours, days or even weeks after an injury. In any case, if you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms after an injury to the head, it’s important to see a doctor.

Seeking medical attention

If you have decided to see a doctor, take a family member or friend along. It can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment and having someone with you ensures you will not miss or forget any specific instructions.

Have a friend or family member write down some specific questions to ask your doctor.

Consider asking:

  • What kinds of tests are needed?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • How soon will symptoms begin to improve?
  • What is the risk of future concussions?
  • When will it be safe to return to competitive sports?
  • When will it be safe to resume vigorous exercise?
  • Is it safe to return to school or work?
  • Is it safe to drive a car or operate power equipment?
  • I have other medical problems. How can they be managed together?

Recovering from an injury

Your doctor will recommend that you physically and mentally rest following a concussion, as this is the most appropriate way to allow your brain to recover. This means avoiding activities that increase any of your symptoms, such as general physical exertion, sports or any vigorous movements, until these activities no longer provoke your symptoms. This rest also includes limiting activities that require thinking and mental concentration, such as playing video games, watching TV, schoolwork, reading, texting or using a computer, if these activities trigger your symptoms or worsen them. As your symptoms improve, you may gradually reintegrate activities that involve thinking. It’s important that you also seek advice from your doctor to determine when it’s safe for you to resume physical activity.

Once all signs and symptoms of the concussion have resolved, you and your doctor can discuss the steps you’ll need to take to safely play sports again. Resuming sports too soon increases the risk of a second concussion and or even a fatal brain injury.


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