What To Do If You Think You Have Had a Concussion?

BrainLine
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Had a Concussion?

What exactly is a concussion?

Although there is actually no single, accepted definition of concussion, it is commonly described as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the function of the brain.

Also called a mild traumatic brain injury, a concussion can result from a car crash, a sports injury, or from a seemingly innocuous fall. Concussions can also occur when the head and upper body are shaken violently. Recovery times can vary greatly.

So, how do you know if you should seek medical attention or wait and see?

The best answer: when in doubt, get prompt medical attention. Lots of people may have a headache or dizziness for a day or so and then recover fully, but a very small group of people who sustain a concussion — five percent — can develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life-threatening if not promptly diagnosed.

Brain injuries are extremely common, but diagnosis can be complicated. Today, there is no single, objective measure that can determine if someone has had a concussion. To make a diagnosis, professionals look at many variables that might indicate trauma,  ranging from changes in balance to memory lapses and dizziness.

It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention in a hospital or emergency department if any of these symptoms are present:

  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.

And if possible, see a medical professional who has knowledge of and experience with brain injury.

Tests

Depending on your symptoms, your age, and the severity of the injury, the emergency department physicians may order some tests. Here are some of the most common:

  • Neurological test– A basic neurological exam in the ER assesses motor and sensory skills, the functioning of one or more cranial nerves, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior, among other abilities. 
  • CT scan– A CT is a special computerized x-ray that provides images of the brain and is sometimes used to look for suspected bleeding or swelling.
  • MRI scan– A Magnetic Resonance Imaging test provides detailed pictures of the brain using magnetic energy instead of radiation.

Even though someone has had a concussion, the MRI and CT scans are often negative. That does not mean that there is no injury; it just means that the damage is not visible on the scans.

Rest

Simple though it sounds, rest is the best treatment we have today for a concussion.

If you think of the brain as an engine, it runs out of gas faster after an injury. Rest is the only way to fill up the tank again. So, the best way to recover is to rest.

Rest is important because the brain continues to heal even after all the symptoms are gone. At least initially, rest means not reading, not listening to music, not watching TV. It means no texting, no email, no cell phone. Rest means physical rest AND cognitive rest.

That said, if symptoms persist — headaches, nausea, dizziness, balance problems, confusion — after you have gotten medical care, call your healthcare provider again. Be persistent and find a healthcare provider who specializes in treating traumatic brain injury.

Prognosis

Most people who sustain a concussion or mild TBI are back to normal often in a week or two and almost always within a few months. But others can have long-term problems either from the concussion or from injury to surrounding soft tissues.

The sooner someone is diagnosed, the better the chances for a good recovery because rest is so important

One word of caution: Because a concussion affects the brain, the injured person may lack the clear judgment to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to go to the hospital. Family and friends can be instrumental in urging him or her to seek medical attention. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!

Posted on BrainLine February 26, 2018. Reviewed July 25, 2018.

About the Author

BrainLine offers authoritative information and support to anyone whose life has been affected by brain injury or PTSD: people with brain injuries, their family and friends, and the professionals who work with them.

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Comments (159)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Yesterday was the last day of a school ski trip that I went on and I wiped out going down a slope just before we left. I hit my head on the ground and twisted my leg, my friend was asking if I was dizzy and I said no, that my head just hurt. So she helped me put my skis back on and we went down the rest of the way slowly together. After a while, my head felt fine but today in the afternoon I felt a bit light-headed, exhausted, slightly fuzzy, had a headache and the left side of my neck is very sore. Does this sound serious? I have just been skiing for three whole days straight so I'm not sure if some of these symptoms could just be normal after that. I've never been in this situation before.

In sport yesterday, I collied with another girl on the right side of my head and smashed her pretty hard, she fell on the ground I still have blurry vision and a splitting headache a day later

It is 13 days post hitting my head (left side above temple). I tripped and hit the side is a book case. No loc. Put ice in it right away. Took something for pain ... went to bed . Next morning about 12 hours later I decided to go to ER. cT scan done... everything looked fine and neurological tests (using eyes, legs, arms) were OK. Did long distance driving the next day. Two days later
Back to ER because had a fuguey feeling ... no headache just slight pressure throughout head, some tingling. Went to urgent care (my docs office) and was given neurological tests again. I asked for an MRI but they said my symptoms did not warrant. Same day made mistake of having a glass of wine ... by the time I got home and ate dinner I had overwhelming pressure at the top of my head and was feeling dizzy. Told husband it was ER again but didn’t make it ... went to my local EMT who took my pressures/pulse (pulse was high). They did a quick EKG .,, looked ok. High pulse came down with the help of some Ativan I had taken.

I have been walking around in a fugue more or less. Can’t say I have a splitting/severe headache. The site of the hit hurts like heck ... appears to have a dent but I was told could be swelling ... some tingling... no nausea or vomiting.., left eye watering somewhat ... flushing .,, taking sinus/pain/anxiety medication and trying to rest as much as possible.

To make a long story short ... I AM SCARED‼️ I read about people who had delayed symptoms, people who have been suffering for years‼️ People who thought about ending it all because of a TBI. I’m thinking ... is this my new normal??? The docs said symptoms can last 3 to 6 weeks/months depending on severity of injury but then again a mild TBI can be life changing I am reading. The doctors suggest I stop reading but I like to be educated as to what the possibilities can be.

I feel two weeks ago and hit the side and back of my head. I didn't pass out but ended up with a black eye and a bruised forehead and a lump in the front left side of my head and the back of my head! I still have a headache and feel light headed when I stand up!

Saturday, so five days ago, I was doing a handstand indoors and landed on my head. Additionally, as I was getting up, I quickly hit my head against the wall. Since then, I’ve been having headaches, during practice I feel more nauseous than normal, trouble falling asleep, I was about to type something else, but I forgot so being forgetful is another thing. I searched up symptoms and I feel like bad balance, light sensitivity, etcetera is pretty normal for me so I’m not sure if I have a concussion or not. I’m 14 and I don’t want to concern my parents unless I’m sure something is wrong so any insight would be appreciated.

You need to tell your parents. A brain is too important to not take care of. It's best to get it checked out.

I was standing on a chair to reach high cabinet, chair broke, I hit the hardwood floor hard with the back of my head. Didn't knock me out, got up pretty quick. Only symptom is head hurting and swollen on back where I hit. Have ice on it now
Do you think I might have a concussion?

Maybe. It would be best if you went to the hospital just to be safe. I had one when I was like 6 and I still remember. We went to the hospital to see if my skull was broken and it was a concussion. If you are dizzy and vomiting go to the hospital.

I was at school and I went to go and sit down , and I hit my head really hard on a metal pole.i went to class and my head was hurting but I didn’t think of it that much.A few days have pasted and I have been felling really dizzy my eyes hurt and I’m also tried.i can’t go to sleep probably and I can’t see probably.i daydream a lot like I was eating dinner and I just went blank. I had a bump on my head but now it gone.my mum doesn’t really think of it that much. And I also keep crying out of no where like I’m sad or something. I’m 14 what should I do.Also I sometimes can’t speak or say my words probably and I lose my balance sometimes.And my heart something’s start beating really fast out of know where.help

Summer please get help....you must to to your School doctor, nurse.
You are only 14, it breaks my heart that your mom is not bothered about your condition.
praying for you
shampa mom
India

Try to impress upon your mother ... if not go the the school nurse or school social worker. Good luck.

Yesterday I was playing basketball with my brother, (I’m 14) and the ball hit the rim and came down on my head. After getting hit, I felt a bit dazed but nothing out of the ordinary. Today I woke up feeling normal and went to school to take my science exam. I felt fine but when I started to read my head started hurting a lot. Then I went outside for recess and my headache flared when playing basketball. I’m home now and the headache had kept on but it has gotten progressively better. Should I seek medical attention or just rest?

On Monday (today is Thursday) my autistic brother had a meltdown and started hitting his head. No one really saw how hard he was hitting (he barely remembers anything from how much pain he was in during the meltdown) and even now he's nauseous and has a lot of headaches. He actually had a panic attack this morning thinking he might die (he described it as if his head was under a lot of pressure) and our mom says it's nothing but I'm worried for him. Should I encourage us to get him medical attention? He doesn't really argue with people but I can tell he's still in pain and worried about how he might have hurt himself.

It's not "nothing". Your mother is wrong, you are right. I hope you were able to get him medical attention.

My adult son was in an auto accident several years ago and broke his neck. more recently he feel asleep driving home from work and totaled his truck and did not seek medical attention. He now is showing signs of being tired all the time, slurred speech, forgetfulness, lack of empathy and more. My question is where do we start? He has no family doctor or even health insurance. thank you, Wendi

My 13 yes old son fell over backwards while doing a chair pose in PE. He was dizzy and nauseated for a while. The school nurse observed him for an hour then sent him back to class. He says he feels ok now. Finished the school day and walked home (half a mile). What do you think? Does he need to go to the doctor?

I was sitting down at lunch , people who were playing soccer kicked the ball super hard and it hit my head , my head hit the brick wall and I blacked out for a few seconds, my whole body was tingly and the rest of the day I’ve had a headache. The back of my head (the part that hit the wall) is swollen :(

Hi Daisy, I hope you got medical attention!! Loss of consciousness (even briefly) calls for immediate medical attention. "Blacking out for a few seconds" IS loss of consciousness. Please get that looked at

I was getting ready to lie down in my bed when I hit the back of my right side of the head with my 6 year old brother's head who was behind me, I had a headache that night and my right ear began to ring, the next day I felt nauseous, headaches and dizzy at night, 5 days have passed and I still feel nauseous and a little bit dizzy at times. I have suffered from chronic headaches before the incident happened, but I feel like they have gotten worse, should I be worried?
I'm 17 years old.

nausea, headaches and dizziness are ALL symptoms of concussion that are listed above. Yes, get medical attention.

I was at school and
I acciedentlly tripped over my friend did a back flip then landed on my head. I didn’t feel when I got hit and then I got up and I was dizzy. I had a headache then it went away and I was completely fine. But then after 6 hours the headache came back. I don’t know if I have a concussion or not

Dizziness and headache after a blow to the head are two of the symptoms that indicate you should seek medical attention.

I'm a volleyball player and got hit on the right side of my head (right temple) with a shanked ball. After getting hit, I had a mild headache that cleared up a while later, and I felt fine. But on the way back home, I felt tired and a bit foggy, and the headache returned. Today (Monday), in school P.E., I tried running, but got a headache and felt dizzy. Even now, I still feel a bit "out of it". Should I just give it some time and rest a bit, or is it serious enough that I should go see a doctor/school nurse?

YES. See a doctor or your school nurse. Let your coach know.

I had a major seizure Monday morning, in which I took a hard fall and my head was hitting a freezer many times. Now, I'm having trouble sleeping, I get worn out in just a few hours, and I'm constantly feeling like I'm going to be sick. I was sick for a good five minutes Wednesday night.

That sounds very serious. I hope you've sought medical attention!

Today I was unwinding a swing at the playground for a young child to get down. I swung the swing up and turned around and next thing I know, the swing came back and hit me violently in the upper eye with the chain and swing seat. After that all I remember was closing my eyes and falling to the ground, then to get up, covering my eye. I couldn’t open it all the way and my eyebrow are was swollen and slightly bruised but not very noticeable. After that a few people said I seemed very dazed, but I’m not sure, I felt fine after putting on a ice pack for a half an hour, do you think I’m alright?

Two days ago, I slipped on ice and fell very hard on my elbow. I dont think i hit my head at all because i didnt feel anything to my head, all the pain was at my elbow. After about 30 seconds later i was fine and my elbow didnt hurt anymore. The rest of the evening was fine i went to see a movie with my friends, laugh and ran a lot. But then after the movie, we played some table hockey at the arcade and i was winning every match and i was moving like a crazy boy when out of nowhere, like absolutely nowhere, the top of my head started hurting like crazyyyy, i couldnt stand up without holding my head and complaining because of how much it hurted. After that, we took the bus and all went back to our houses. When going back home, i dont remeber my head hurting, but as soon as i got back it started hurting intensively again. I decided to go to sleep straight away.

Next morning, my head hurted a little bit when i woke up and as soon as i stood up it hurted badly. I wasnt very dizzy though, only the headache.

Now today, i couldnt sleep well and im dizzy. my head hurts a lot when i play video games for a long period of time.

Im pretty sure i have a concussion but what bothers me is that i never hit my head. Could it be something else or was the shock so intense that it couldve reached my brain?

Concussions are when your brain hit your skull. They can be caused by any jostling of the brain. I’ve heard of people getting concussions from falling on their butt. It is certainly possible you have a concussion, and you should definitely see a doctor.

I hit the back of my head on concrete and my head hurts and I have a headache I don’t know what to do is it bad if I rest and take a nap?

I hit my head over an hour ago because I fainted and now I feel lightheaded, dazed, and my head hurts on and off. Should I contact a doctor?

It wounds like you should. Can you get in to see your primary care doctor asap?

I hit my head while snowboarding yesterday and then took several headers in a soccer game last night. I do not have a headache but feel very tired and out of it today. My neck is also in excruciating pain, what should I do?

I’m rather amazed at these questions. “I hit my head now I feel sick to my stomach and I have a headache? Did I have a concussion?”
Yes, you probably did.

I’m going to praise the state I live in- very unusual- because they have a protocol for kids that are concussed. They don’t go back to school for a week, and when they do come back, the teachers have to give you a two-week extension on all assignments.

I asked the principal why did such a generous program come about and of course, he didn’t answer my question. What he did say was great:
"People with concussions have injured their brain. If they’re sent back to school a day or two later, they’re already behind, your anxiety level races and your immunosuppressive system goes 'Eh, I’ll take the day off.'” 

This puts more pressure on your brain, which is exactly what you don’t want, confusion, sleepiness, inability to understand what people are saying is raising your blood sugar and that, of course, includes your brain, which is encased in this lovely container. When the brain swells, at some point, it meets your skull bone and then you’re in bad shape.

I understand what’s it’s like it's live with parents who do the “ oh you’re such a big baby.” My girls were always good at sports. My littlest was playing soccer one day and we weren’t watching because our other daughters game was right next to it. Suddenly some assistant coaches came up to me to say she was down and of course I didn’t wait for details. I ran.

She was struggling to get up, her head hurt and she thought she lost a minute.  I asked the coach what he would do and he said to go. The entire trip to the hospital my husband spent yelling at me “oh she’s fine” “ we’re.not made of money “ etc. We took her to a pediatric ER. She had a concussion.

If your parents are being dorks, can you find a neighbor to take you to get checked out? Teacher? Please do this

Judy W

I hit the back of my head at play practice around 10:30 yesterday morning. Since then, I’ve had pain in my head and severe dizziness and nausea. I don’t think I hit hard, but I’m still worried. Should I see my doctor or ER?

Severe dizziness and nausea are definitely symptoms that you should see a doctor for. Please go see your doctor.

My boyfriend hit his head when falling on ice and he said he has a headache and said he was really tried should he go to sleep? and is now sleeping. Should I take him the hospital

i got hit in the head with a lacrosse ball and now i’m dizzy and tired should i go to a doctor?

So on February 4th, 2019 I got hit in the face really hard with a volleyball, my coach did a concussion protocol and I passed, but today, February 5th, 2019, I got hit again and I failed the concussion protocol, I couldn't really stand and I was dizzy and I had the worst headache so they made me sit down, about 30 mins later they did another one, and I failed again, I felt really weak and dizzy and my headache was still there. I'm at home now and I still have a headache and every now and then I will get really dizzy and tired, should I be concerned?

You should seek immediate medical attention in this case, to be safe.

I got tackled today playing football, hit head first, I feel like throwing up and kind of dizzy

go see a doctor these symptoms should be explained with medical consultation

I took a ball to the eye and am extremely drowsy and have a killer headache. Should I see a doctor?

Im not an expert but I think you should.

definitely

My wife hit her head hard last night after A couple of drinks and passed out. Doesn't really remember much of it. She has A lumpy soft spot on the side of her head. We went out today and remembers everything from today, is she going to be ok?

Need some suggestions for getting my concussed so to see someone...

It happened tonight. I was not there. Picked up from friends house. Hit deer, drove to their house. They called me. Based-on/ time & location likely knocked out for a bit. Had cut on forhead.

Refused to go to hospital. Took home. Got bleeding stopped & bandaged. Undressed no other bleeds. Eyes ok. Walking. Drinking. Swallowing. Issues talking, but coherently responding to instructions.

Not going to turn this into a physical altercation to go. Hopefully can get a group to herd into hospital tomorrow.

Past major TBI.

why would you not include that in cases people have died by falling asleep after a concussion?? its important CRUCIAL to not fall asleep if you think you may have a concussion. I know someone personally who died this way.

I was at cheer today and we were working on extensions and I fell on the back of my head and neck and all I saw was black when my head hit the ground. I've had a headact since the incident at 5:30. My dad said I'm fine and just ignores it like he does everything. Should I go to the school nurse or something ?

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