Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen, University of Utah
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that affects your brain’s ability to function properly. Effects of a concussion are usually temporary, but can worsen over time and cause brain damage and other side effects if not taken care of properly. Usually, concussions are caused by a strong blow to the head. Concussions are common during contact sports such as soccer or football.
However, the symptoms of a concussion can be very subtle. You might not even know you have a concussion until a few days after your initial head trauma. If you do have symptoms, they can last for days, weeks, months, or even years. If you have experienced any sort of blow to the head, it’s important to go to a doctor right away to get yourself checked out and prevent further damage from happening.
The most common symptoms of a concussion are headache, amnesia, and general confusion. These may be accompanied by ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, and blurred vision. People observing you nearby may consider you to have a dazed appearance, slurred speech, or a delayed response to their questions.
After experiencing a concussion, you may have immediate symptoms, and you may have additional symptoms in the days to come. Symptoms that may occur after the initial event include memory problems, irritability and other personality changes, sensitivity to light or noise, sleep problems, depression, or changes in taste and smell.
Concussions can also occur in children. In fact, this is very common and far more serious than a concussion experienced by an adult. If your child or infant is showing symptoms such as a dazed appearance, irritability, excessive crying, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, vomiting or seizures, get them to a doctor immediately. Even if your child has experienced a head injury and shows no symptoms at all, it is advised to get them to a doctor immediately if the event was more than a bump.
If you have suffered a head injury and are experiencing the following symptoms, seek emergency care as soon as possible:
- Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting or nausea.
- Slurred speech.
- Drowsiness or sleepiness.
- One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
- Convulsions or seizures.
- Inability to recognize people or places.
- Confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
- Unusual behavior.
- Loss of consciousness.
Many of these symptoms are rare, and most people who have experienced concussions do not develop them, but they can occur.
It’s important to note that most people with traumatic brain injuries such as a concussion recover quickly and do not experience long-lasting effects. If you see a doctor in time and follow their advice, you can ensure proper recovery, and you will be back to normal in no time.