The Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

A concussion is categorized as a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head and/or body causing the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Concussions can typically occur from a fall or blow to the body.

If you suspect someone has suffered a concussion, please consider if the following has occurred:

  • A direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body with an “impulsive” force transmitted to the head.
  • A rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurological function that resolves spontaneously.
  • An onset of neuropathological changes, but the acute clinical symptoms largely reflect a functional disturbance rather than structural injury.
  • A graded set of clinical syndromes that may or may not involve loss of consciousness. Resolution of the clinical and cognitive symptoms typically follows a sequential course.
  • Association with grossly normal structural neuroimaging studies such as an MRI scan or CT scan; however, it is important to note that since a concussion does NOT show up on an MRI or CT scan, these tests may come back as normal, but does not indicate that the athlete didn't suffer a concussion.  A clear MRI or CT scan does not mean that the athlete is clear of a concussion injury.

Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion

Signs are indicators that a coach, athletic trainer, parent or fellow team member may notice:

  1. Any period of loss of consciousness
  2. Disorientation or confusion
  3. Slurred or incoherent speech
  4. Difficulty paying attention
  5. Delayed verbal and motor response
  6. Vacant stare
  7. Emotionality out of proportion to circumstance
  8. Memory deficits

Symptoms of a concussion are what an athlete may report experiencing:

Early symptoms (minutes to hours):

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Visual changes

Late symptoms (days to weeks):

  • Memory disturbances
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Personality changes such as becoming easily frustrated
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent low-grade headache

If an athlete has ANY symptoms or signs of concussion, the athlete:

  • Should NOT be allowed to return to play in the current game or practice
  • Should not be left alone (regular monitoring for deterioration over next several hours)
  • Should be medically evaluated by a medical doctor (not a chiropractor or nurse)
  • Should follow a medically supervised stepwise process for returning to play

If you suspect that you, or an athlete you know, has suffered a concussion, please read more about how a concussion is evaluated by clicking here.