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

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.


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.


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.


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.

BrainLine is a national service of WETA-TV, the flagship PBS station in Washington, D.C. Learn more >

Comments (201)

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.

I got hit in the left side of my head by my friend with a rucksack after we had an argument I sat there for about a minute holding my head feeling dizzy and confused. I walked to the first aid room and got sent home with an ice pack. I still feel dizzy and have a headache both sides of my head but my sister won’t take me to the hospital because she’s had concussions before and says mine is mild.

I was punched with a pillow into a hard wall which resulted me being rendered completely disconcerted and potentially knocked out for a couple seconds, and then I was mostly incapacitated by pain and a little disorientation. This was over 3 months ago, but I am experiencing brain fog and constantly feeling like I am watching my life through vr goggles or something, potential hyperrealization. I didn't use my brain much after this hit, I was mostly on screens though. Is the damage permanent, as I am 17 years old? Would I be able to tell if this is a true concussion through a scan? Like an fMRI, SPECT, or CT scan? Let me know please!

I hit my head really hard in the back two days ago, I’ve since felt a little off and kinda dizzy a bit nauseous yesterday and today and my head is super tender still it hurts when I lay on my pillow it’s protruding and I’m wondering if I should go to the ER or what should I do

Was at work on Thursday yesterday, and stood up and hit the top of my head really hard on the corner of a cabinet that didn’t budge. There’s a 1 inch gash there now and is scabbed up, (didn’t bleed much) but about 2 hours after banging it I started vomiting every hour for 6 hours… but that’s literally like the only symptom I’ve had other than some very mild dizziness, which I associated with vomiting so damn much

I recently slammed heads with an opposing player in basketball and seconds after my vision went blurry, I had a horrible headache, there was a constant ringing in my ears and everything felt off. I thought it wasn’t anything bad so I just pretended like nothing happened even though my head really hurt. A day after I ended up getting really sick for 7 days and the doctors said it wasn’t COVID or the FLU, for 4 days everything felt kind of normal. But then one day I woke up and ended up feeling very dizzy, confused, and light headed. I just went on with life assuming it was just all in my head I was going to be fine until a week later when school started back up I threw up and fainted at school. I went home and just felt very nauseous. I’m currently resting and laying in bed feeling a little dizzy and just have a small headache. Should I be concerned and go see the doctor please let me know.

My brother got hit pretty hard in a tackle football game and went to the bench feeling nauseous and lightheaded. Suspecting concussion and taking him to the ER now.

I tried a bicycle kick in a soccer game, but got hit from behind while I was in the air, and I landed on my neck/head. I have a really bad headache now and don't feel hungry. What should I do?

I had a concussion and I had a headache for days I went to hospital and I stayed for a whole week

I fell backwards and hit the ground really hard with my back and head. I don’t think I passed out or anything. It hurts a little bit around the spot where I hit my head but otherwise I can walk in a straight line and everything. I don’t feel or look like I’m acting different. I’m only worried because I hit my head pretty hard.

I had a concussion when I hit my head too fast but in that moment I fractured my left clavicle also, is it bad I didn’t tell the doctors I had a concussion that day?

I was screwing around for a video and slammed my head on a desk full force, didn't hurt at the time but my forehead aches a little bit and i'm slightly lightheaded, and my nose is runny.. I'm not sure though because some of that happens with my medication
I don't want to bother a doctor if I'm fine

After parking the car in the pensioner parking spot I proceeded through the top gate near the rampped foot path, as i approached through I noticed the main double doors were still locked and i looked to the right for the door to the meeting room was closed also while still in motion then it happened !my sneeker type shoes gripped the higher ground of the ramp which I was not antisipating with the motion of going forward over I went.OUCH that hought !Right on the middle of my forhead and on boney part of the nose.After laying there stunged I could not lift myself up , so I rolled on my side and got up on all fours.I could feel the abrashion on my forehead ,which was houghting considerably,so I made trackes to the windows and with continued knocking waited for a responce.Other member of the bible study group opened the side door and helped me inside,Peter Kidd found the first aid container and opened it with no bandages inside. so I was not going to dilly dally go to my local doctor for proper help. so I packed up and drove to dr.Khan ,s surgery and the got to me quickly.

my girlfriend got hit in the head near her left ear and fell and smacked the back of her head on the field she has been feeling dazed and nauseous for the last few hours but is already feeling better should she get checked

Yup! You should go get it checked just in case :)

I fell off a chair and hit my head
I got a headache right after and took some paracetamol for a couple days after.
I didn’t feel any other symptoms except for the headache
Now it’s 7 days later and the headache is still there, it comes and goes is a better way to describe it
I suspected a concussion but idk

i do cheer and i was dropped from a basket and hit my head directly on the floor

We were driving on our ranch, I was in the back seat with the dogs and he went into a rut. It caused me to fly up and bang my head on the metal speaker area in the hero yesterday afternoon. I have a headache still and am still nauseous as well as have obvious bruising and swelling on my forehead where I hit. Should I go to the doctor for a concussion or go to work?

I tripped over and banged my head on the concrete extremely hard, afterwards the world was like seeing double or triple, I could barely hear over the ringing and I lost counsiusness a few times, when i woke up i could not remember how i got there or who i was for about 10 minutes and it took me about an hour to remember what had happened. I'm 14 and I'm not sure wether i should seek medical help.

Yes you really should

i was messing around with my friend then my other friend jumped on me and hit my head really hard into the grass. my vision was blurred for a good few minutes and was kind of dizzy and my head hurt really really bad for the next 5-10 minutes. my head hurt for another hour or so after that too but it was pretty minor and didn't hurt for the next 7 hours. now (7-8 hours later) my head is throbbing. I told my parents but it's pretty late so I might just wait and see how I feel in the morning but I'm scared that my head is beading internally and I will die in my sleep lol I saw something like that happen in home and away and now I'm scared. also im 14

I hit my self in the head with a hammer

My 6 years old daughter fell in the bushes From her bicycle and her head bang on the ground no outside injury but she was complaining headache and after an hour she forgot the incident and the same day events. What to do??

Me and my girlfriend smacked our heads together really hard left side of mine right side of hergs and we both feel dizzy and nauseous and my girlfriend is having some balance issues

Go to a doctor as soon as you can. They will be able to help.

today I fell of a stump in the woods and fell onto my head and back my head may have hit a rock I'm not sure if I had a loss of conciseness I layed on the ground for a couple minutes while my mom comforted me, a had a headache for about 30 minutes the hours later my nose just randomly started bleeding I don't know if I should seek medical help

I was in bed and my head board is really heavy I wasn’t sleeping. Suddenly it fell and bashed the middle of my head. I didn’t feel pain for the first 10 mins but after I stopped crying I had a sudden throbbing pain and it continued for ages. I put ice on my head and it’s better but apparently after it happened I was slow to respond to questions and I am really tired (this happened 2 hours ago) even now. I don’t want to go to hospital but idk if this is a concussion.

So 3 says ago I was riding my bike slightly uphill, going about 13-15 mph at most. I had my head down and ran into the back of a parked car. I just didn’t see it. Anyhow, I launched off the bike and put my head (helmet on) through the back window. I popped right up and never felt dazed or confused. My memory is clear and I haven’t had any symptoms other than being a little nauseous that night and maybe my head is a little numb. I’m very lucky but just a little paranoid about hidden damage like brain bleeding because the accident seemed so horrific. Should I chill out and just assume I have a mild concussion at worst? Thanks-

i hit my head really hard on the doorknob as i was picking something up off the floor last night. it hurt really bad immediately after so i put ice on it. the eye on the side of my head i hit is still swollen and the same ear is ringing and i'm nauseous/have thrown up. i have slept more than 12 hours since it happened and that's very unusually for me. i asked my mom what to do multiple times and she said that i'd be fine. i'm 15 and i can't drive, help?

ok so today i was doing a stunt and my friends dropped me on my head on the grass. i was okay up until about 3 hours after. i started feeling dizzy, nauseous, and my heart hurts so bad still. it hurts everywhere but especially where i fell, in the back towards my neck. my mom refuses to think that it’s a concussion and won’t take me to the doc. what do i do i’m only 14 and in lots of pain:( help please!!!

Tell your mom that if she doesn’t take you to the emergency room you are calling 9-1-1 because you are in enough pain that you may have fractured something.

Take a cab to the hospital, your mom's an idiot. You need to get checked out immediately in the event of concussion or even spinal injury.

I fell yesterday on black ice hit my head and back. Felt nauseous and had headache all night still have headache today

I was cleaning the top of my fridge , fell off my barstool and hit my head on the ground . It’s tile and concrete . I’m
Ok up walking around but my head was bleeding for a few not much though and my nose has been trucking blood ....

i was skiing a week ago and i got a lot of air and landed on may face. I had scratched and cuts all over my face as well as a swollen nose. My head was also hurting. Still today, a week later, I still have a piercing headache. should i get this check out?

I was at soccer practice yesterday and got a hard hit from the ball to my head. Today I went to school and I have just felt like my eyes are heavy and I keep zoning out

I was involved in a car crash last night , nothing too big just went over a center divider going around 45mph. I felt fine after the crash I was able to walk and talk just fine but today I woke up with various ringing in my head that would come and go occasionally. Should I be worried or will it work out on it’s own?

Yesterday I dropped my phone on the ground by my car and when I bent down to pick it up, I hit my head pretty hard on the bottom corner of the car door. I didn't lose consciousness or anything, but I have been feeling strange. I had a headache within 10-15 minutes and I got really sleepy earlier than normal last night. When I opened my eyes this morning and stretched, I instantly felt the pain in the exact spot I hit my head. If I raise my eyebrows it hurts as well. I also am never bothered when turning my light on in the morning but this morning I squinted really hard and got teary eyed because the light hurt. I haven't been dizzy either, I have simply just felt weird. I've also been a little nauseous. I asked my aunt about it this morning on the way to work and asked her if i should go to the doctor tomorrow. She said, "oh, it's just a bump, I'm sure you'll feel fine in a couple of days." I've never hit my head like that before, but I also haven't been too different besides just feeling weird. Should I go to the doctor anyway? I'm an 18 year old female. I just don't know if this is something I need to be concerned about.

I'm a woman that was slapped so hard on the sides of my head that I didn't know what a concussion really was until a couple of months after the incident, my head would be sore off and on from where it was hit. My head was clouded like I couldn't think clearly as hard as I tried. I would forget the simplest things such as where I laid something the day before or what I ate yesterday. I thought it was all weird and did some research and came to conclude I had a concussion maybe multiple, I'm not even sure to this day. I didn't have medical insurance or money to get properly evaluated. I wish I did because even to this day I still wonder if everything is okay inside my head. I don't forget things anymore. I can think clearly but it took 6 months to get to that point. The point I'm trying to make is: if you have a concern about an injury particularly a brain related injury, by all means go get checked out. I truly believe a concussion to the head is one of the worst debilitating injuries you can have to your mental health.

I was playing tackle football in a high school practice with full pads and during a tackling drill I got slammed into the ground hard enough to get a concussion. Immediately after contact with the ground I heard a sound in my brain similar to a door stop with a spring that we all had fun twanging back and forth as kids except this sound was much deeper and more robust. It lasted maybe 10 seconds. What was this?

This is exactly what happened to me! I heard a strange noise and zoned out for a couple of seconds.

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.

Might be good idea if you go into a hyper baric chamber is really good for concussions and head aches. You need to drink lots of water and stay rested well.

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.

this is advice is for the 14 yr old ...wish I read earlier, but am wondering how are you doing now? Please let us know. Praying for you to be well and back to normal.
Am a mom

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.