Concussions are common but often go under-reported. A statement from the 3rd International Conference on Concussion defines concussion as "a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biochemical forces." Symptoms of a concussion can be variable. If you experience any of these symptoms you should seek a health care provider with experience in concussion management.
Headache is the most common symptom of a concussion, but you can also have increased sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, numbness and tingling to the arms or legs, ringing in the ears, or changes in vision. These symptoms can occur immediately after the impact or even the next day. They can come and go for minutes or persist for days.
Loss of memory of the event is common. For example, in a football game you may forget the score of the game, what quarter you are in, or even the impact itself. You may have a difficult time walking and your balance and coordination may be off. People may say that you have a vacant, glassy stare. You may even experience a brief period of loss of consciousness. Being unresponsive for a prolonged period is usually the sign of something more serious, and emergency personnel should be notified.
Changes in behavior can be obvious or subtle. They include irritability, nervousness, depression, or moodiness. Some people report extreme sadness or emotional outbursts with uncontrolled crying. You can even experience moments of personality changes with concussions.
Difficulty concentrating is a common symptom of a concussion. You may feel like you are "in a fog" or "dinged." Some people say they feel drunk. Immediately after the injury, you may feel disorientated. You can be easily distracted. It is common to take time off school or work due to concussive symptoms.
Sleep problems can consist of either excessive sleep or difficulty sleeping. Excessive fatigue can be a result. It is not necessary to wake people regularly throughout the night to check on them after a concussion, especially as cognitive and physical rest is the main treatment for concussions.
Is This an Emergency?
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine; Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport Held in Zurich, November 2008; Paul McCrory, MBBS, PhD, et al. May 2009
- DeLee and Drez's Orthorpedic Sports Medicine, 3rd Edition; Jesse C Delee, MD, David Drez, Jr, MD, and Mark D. Miller; 2009