Know the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

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By Ana Campbell on September 20, 2019

The CDC estimates that 1.6-3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year in the United States. Athletes aren't the only ones at risk for concussions, though. They can affect anyone! 

Concussions should be taken seriously because they can be harmful to one's long-term cognitive function and can sometimes even be deadly. 

A concussion occurs when the normal function of the brain is disrupted by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. According to Carilion Clinic's Vice Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. T.K. Miller, when a concussion occurs, “it's [your brain] like jello in a mold that gets shaken, and anything that does that can cause a concussion.”

Unlike a broken arm, a concussion cannot be seen or felt, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms. If the necessary precautions are not taken, a concussion can result in serious injury to the brain.

A concussion is associated with a variety of symptoms that can occur immediately or hours to days after the injury. The symptoms are classified as physical, cognitive or emotional.

Physical Symptoms

Within minutes to hours: Headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, trouble with balance
Hours to days later: Bothered by noise or light, trouble walking or talking, vision changes

Cognitive Symptoms

Within minutes to hours: Confusion, feeling sleepy
Hours to days later: Problems with memory or paying attention

Emotional Symptoms

Within minutes to hours: Acting cranky, strangely or out of sorts
Hours to days later: Mood or behavior changes, sleep changes

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Dr. Miller states that “balance issues, headache, don’t like loud sounds, can’t quite remember things,” are all concerning signs that should be taken seriously and brought to the attention of a medical professional immediately.

If you think you or someone you know are experiencing a concussion, seek medical advice right away. A health care professional is the best resource for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Find more information about concussions in our Concussion Discussion.