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.

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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 (179)

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.

Folks, a lot of you here have had concussions of varying degrees of severity. If your TBI was long ago, there's not much you can do. If it was recent, go to the doctor, just to make sure you have no bleeding or blood clots forming. These events may have no symptoms but could be progressive and could cause death within a few days. Your brain is fragile and just a moderate amount of it banging up against the cranial wall can injure tissue and blood vessels, helmet or no helmet. Please take this seriously.  

I have had my third concussion via motor vehicle accident. They are not my fault. This last one I flipped my suv after taking a seizure. The seizures started from being rear ended at a stop light. The doctors were not keeping an eye on my seizure medication levels and I had a seizure while driving. Thing is , I have been to the doc after five days in hospital complaining about post conclusive headaches and they just tell me oh you have brain injury. I have been back twice now. Next told it is just worsening of injuries from first motor vehicle accident. Come on I was knocked out in hospital five days. Am in severe pain help me. Any one else feel like they are talking to a brick wall. Oh ya. I did go to Physio at first, but the therapist was making me do things that brought on concussion symptoms like vertigo vomiting fainting and worsening of pain of other injuries I had to quit going all together. So in six months since the accident I have not had proper physio care. My head injury from my worse accident has left my skull with a Teflon plate on one side and brain gliosis or bruising in both temples and frontal lobes. My EEG show significant brain damage from past head injuries that it was commented on I needed to be careful. As well as I needed a referral for a new neurologist to be seen every three months. And this is Ontario Canada. Any one else having similar situation

I hit my head snowboarding  and went to the doctors the next day and the doctors didn't do anything about it and then i went to the hospital on two days after i hit my head and after my headaches and vision got worse. The hospital didn't do a MRI or CT scan they just told me i have a concussion. Like who knows if i have anything wrong with my brain. It was so stupid and now i will never know if i have anything wrong with my head 

My neurologist said bleeding is always present and seen by an MRI no matter what. I fell six feet right on my temple- full force. He lied to me.

I am fourteen and have had two concussions which were two months apart. first one was in july and was a grade 3 concussion and second one was in september and was a grade one concussion. i am still not allowed to play sports. It is a bad excuse to get out of school!

Great help informative

Find an osteopath who does cranio sacral therapy . I was hit by a car when I was cycling and had a concussion . After just the first session the confusion and disorientation and vision problems improved . After the second session the dizziness was gone. The bones in the skull are gently repositioned Fabulous therapy

I have had 3 car wrecks and got ran over by a car all before I was 15 and a few days ago I hit my head and it didn't seem like a big deal but from all my head injurys I can't remember a lot of things so my head hurts and my stomach was sick and I was a little blurry but now I don't know what to do it has messed with my mind so much I can't remember a lot and I have children what should I do

Can your eyes still be blurry if u have a concussion? But now show on ct or mri

I've had 4 concussions, just by the age of 16. My most recent one was the beginning summer. All 4 of them have been because of soccer. I was wondering if i should continue playing?

I've gotten two concussions in my life but I don't remember exactly how they happened. The first one was when I was six, I was swinging and I remember going very high before I blacked out. When I woke up I was being carried inside and I last consciousness a few more times after that because the pain in my head was so severe and eventually I vomited. My parents figured it wasn't really a concussion and never took me to the doctor. It wasn't until years later when I got another concussion (from falling and heading my head against the bottom of an empty pool) and I complained of chronic headaches and memory loss that they finally took me to see someone. Now I get a nasty headache almost every week and my long term memory is much worse than it used to be. Make sure to get yourself checked out if you get a head injury because the after effects can last for years, if not indefinitely.

Sounds like you have a traumatic brain injury. TBI is nicknamed the invisible brain injury but symptoms are real and permanent. My husband was in a car accident in 2006 and simply told he had severe concussion...two years later he was properly diagnosed and has a team of doctors now helping with every defficit he faces. Study TBI...it is permanent brain damage.

I was involved in a car accident as a passenger back in 1987. A drunk driver broadsided our four door car. The rear passenger door buckled and my first reaction was turning my body to the left to get out of the seat. My head went into the windshield and left a round spidered circle. I was knocked out but had came back as the car was in a spin for a ditch. The car went through a barbed wire fence into a farmers field. Although shaken up I did not go to the hospital at age 11. The following days I had headache and nausea and slept straight for two days. I was a kid and felt invincible up to that point. Then fear started to take over. My outlet was sports and I wasn't going to let fear take me over. But the fogginess and confusion still persisted for months later and a loss of short term memory. Long term memory became excellent to almost supernatural. Years later I had CT scans and mRI scans done. Nothing showed. After high school I quit sports altogether then noticed how much has changed since with mood, emotions, and irritability. There are long term effects that need to be recognized with concussions and I hope someone does studies on this.

My husband hit his head on a low beam in the house ten days ago he was nausea, confused, exhausted, forgetful he's gradually getting better with plenty of rest over the four days post the inccident he came home after the first full week back at work and fell asleep 19.30 last night it's now approx 8.00am on the next morning and he's still asleep he's 34 and very fit and healthy is this just part of the recovery?

My husband fell forward on concrete at work. He softened the head blow with his arms. A man ran up to help and kicked him in the temple with a steel toe shoe. He was trying to help. I believe he had a concussion. Sleeping a lot, memory issues, or just didn't make sense! I have never delt with this. And he is pron to blood clots. After over 2 weeks he is better. Neck and head still hurting. He also broke his toe and still made him work!

I've had 10 or 11 concussions over the course of my athletic career, and the biggest mistake I ever made was rushing back to play again because I felt "fine." If you've had a recent concussion, you're now much more susceptible to a severe concussion from even a mild blow to the head. I know - it happened to me. The second one was a mild bump and it rendered me unable to work or think for a week. Scary. I post this now because I just fell from 10 feet during a CrossFit competition (hands slipped on the pull-up bar), and now I have to decide how quickly I can get back in the gym. My ego tells me I'll be good to go tomorrow, but my experience tells me to wait a week at least.

Sounds like some people on here have had or have concussions, I"m not a doctor only someone suffering with a concussion.  To answer the questions as to why they haven't gone to the emergency room or doctor or whatever, with my concussion I've found, I have needed someone to tell me what to do, for some reason I wasn't able to make the decision for myself.  Part of myself kept thinking I was making a big deal out of nothing etc and part of me knew I should see a doctor but until someone told me to make an appointment, I was unable.  Anyway, if you think you may have a concussion go see the doctor and tell him how you are feeling.  I was in a car accident, I had not visible injuries and no one thought to ask the right questions regarding concussion, I thought I was fine, just in shock maybe, but I wasn't.  So call!

Is there a specific time frame after the injury that vomiting would occur?

Get a ct scan, make sure theres no bleeding. And rest, stay out of gym.

Come on people a bit of common sense is needed here writing in the comments box isnt going to get you a reply from a doctor if your unsure about going to A&E ring the out of hours or non emergency and they will tell you if you need medical attention

Jesus people, yes you have a concussion. I've had several and all of your symptoms sound much worse than what I was experiencing, or on par with the worst one.

Good Grief.  If you are asking if you need to be seen by a doctor, then you need to be seen by a doctor.  

Go to the doctor right away, even if you're feeling mostly better. Its your brain - you will be sorry you took extra precaution. Please see a doc.

Thats a graet help thanks i really needed that thanks x

I am 12 and got a one when playing soccer. The doc said I would be able to play in a week or so but after a week I was still not feeling good so my mom took me agian and they ened up saying I wasn't aloud in loud places so I couldn't do anything or be around anything that is really loud.

I'm 18 and I got bashed in the nose by someone's head at Rockfest yesterday. The doctors said I have a mild concussion but I've never been injured before so I'm a little worried and freaking out just a bit. I'm hoping because I'm  young and relatively healthy it won't take long to heal. My work isn't going to let me have any days off for it, I'm sure. :/

I am 29 years old and I crashed a dirt bike going over a 9th jump and Landed on my head. I knocked myself completely out. I woke up 17 hours later in a hospital. CT scan was normal. Good thing I was wearing a good helmet and my neck brace or my neck would be broken for sure. 2 weeks later I still have symptoms. Doctors say it's normal. Takes a while for the Brain to heal up!

My experience is that what happened to me was summarized as Organic Brain Syndrome. For me, caffeine works a little to temporarily improve the ability to pay attention and comprehend a little better.
My head got slammed in a car door tonight by accident. I think that I may have a concussion. When I was younger and had one the dr. told me not to go to sleep for 2 hrs. after it happened. So that is what I am going to do. Wait 2 hrs. before going to sleep. I had a pounding head ache prior to this happening tonight too. :( So this just makes it feel worse.