Long thought to be a likely harmless brain injury, recent research is suggesting that the long term effect of concussions may be more than just a bump on the head.

Concussion Overview

Reviewed: August 5, 2014

A concussion is a mild form of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that results from the brain can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also result from violent or sudden shaking, or whiplash movements.

Symptoms of a concussion may include headache, neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, feeling dazed, and memory problems. Sometimes loss of consciousness occurs when the injury occurs, but not all concussions cause loss of consciousness. Symptoms of a concussion typically resolve within 7 to 10 days for most people.

When someone suffers a blow to the head, or a sudden change in direction of the head (such as a whiplash injury), the brain may strike against the inside of the skull. This can cause injury to the brain, and produce concussion symptoms.

Treatment for concussion is primarily physical and mental rest. Acetaminophen may be used for headache pain relief. NSAIDs are not recommended because of the small risk of bleeding in the brain after a traumatic brain injury.

Concussion Symptoms

Symptoms of a concussion typically disappear within 7 to 10 days for most people.

Symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • headache
  • neck pain
  • nausea
  • ringing in your ears
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • blurry vision
  • feeling dazed
  • memory problems
  • loss of consciousness (occurs in about 1 in 10 concussions)

Concussion Causes

Concussions can occur from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions commonly are a result of a sports injury.


Concussion Diagnosis

In order to diagnose a concussion, your doctor will perform a neurologic exam and perform a scan of your brain called Computerized tomography (CT scan).

Living With Concussion

After a concussion, it is important to be mindful of the following:

  • Get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding such as working-out.
  • Avoid activities that require a lot of concentration such as balancing your checkbook.
  • Avoid contact or recreational sports that can increase your risk for having another concussion.
  • Avoid activities such as riding a bicycle, climbing playground equipment, or roller coasters.
  • Ask your doctor when you can safely drive a car, bike, or operate machines.
  • Ask your doctor when you can begin to drink alcoholic beverages again. Alcohol and other drugs may slow your recovery and put you at risk of further injury.
  • Early on during the recovery process, avoid continued computer use, including computer/video games.

A single concussion can raise your risk for having another concussion later on so preventing concussions becomes very important.

Preventing concussions:

  • Wear helmets during activities such as bicycling
  • Wear proper headgear during sports
  • Remove tripping hazards, such as electrical cords and throw rugs, in living areas to prevent falls
  • Install handrails can be an option for the elderly

To prevent concussions and ensure the best outcome for athletes:

  • Check with your league, school, or district about concussion policies
  • Educate athletes and other parents or coaches about concussions
  • Athletes should not finish game if athlete has concussion
  • Athletes should not return to playing sports until cleared by doctor

Concussion Treatments

After a concussion, the best thing you can do is rest. Rest is very important as it will help the brain to heal.

Healing will take time. Your doctor will let you know when you can return to your daily activities such as work or school. It is better to return to your normal activities slowly and not all at once.

Your doctor will also tell you when you can start playing sports again as well as start engaging in recreational activities again.


Concussion Prognosis

Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. However for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.

Contact your doctor if you notice your symptoms get worse, or if you notice serious symptoms such as the following:

  • Seizures
  • Trouble walking or sleeping
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech