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

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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.

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Comments (102)

my head was hit into a wall a few times, my head hurts and i feel a bit “slow” if that makes sense. do i need to see a professional?

I have moderate to severe dizziness and head aches on and off since 2016. I was in bad car accident and had a CT done right after but didn't notice these symptoms until later on, ct came back normal however I still feel really off balance all of the sudden like falling over, bed shakes when I'm sitting still, can't think or talk straight at times. I get bad dizziness even when laying down and brightness and colors bother my eyes. I'm not sure as I've been to the doctors over and over and over and seems to only think vertigo but this was after that bad car accident mind you. What next steps should I take?

Do you know the thing that you place on your door frame and you can do pull ups with it? That fell on my head.
I’ve tried telling my dad but he’s playing it off as a joke and I don’t know what to do (I’m 13 and this happened a few hours ago I think)

Dads can be that way, they often blow things off. I suggest you tell him you're feeling sick, name your symptoms and ask he bring you to the hospital. Otherwise call 911 and tell them what happened. They should send an ambulance. You don't mess around with this kind of stuff!!! Your dad is not reacting properly like a father should. He may be a great guy, but he's not doing the right thing. . .err on the side of caution! It's your head, for heaven's sake!

I got hit with a soccer ball at school really hard and when I got home I have a headache and felt a bit tired. Is that normal or should I see a doctor?

This happened to my niece. Bad concussion. 6 months out of school, no more soccer. Don't wait.

Same general symptoms for me, but if I say anything about it my family is just going to tell me that I'm faking it and then get angry at me. I need to be 100% before I bring up my problem. I don't think its anything life threatening, and I'm only on day two with a mild headache and its sometimes hard to focus but they may just be from a lack of sleep. If anyone knows what I should do let me know. Thanks.

I have tingling in my right foot right hand and face. Doctor says give it time

Can an eye exam several days after a hit on the head determine if someone had a concussion?

I would like to read the answer

I hit the back of my head on a pool floor yesterday night. Today I have felt dizzy, lightheaded, emotional, and very tired (even though I slept for 14 hours that night). I don't want to see a doctor if it's not serious. Should I just rest at home?

I would call the doctor (or see a school nurse if you're underage.) If you develop any memory loss, see a doctor right away.

I got in a rollover collision last year on July 3, 2017, to this day I feel dizzy feel nauseous, have severe headaches, really delicate to light and sound, get irritated really quickly, forget stuff, don’t remember well. I was determined to have concussion syndrome and now my head hurts worse. Should I see a doctor? What do I say to them?

I suggest you go see a doctor because that is not normal! If technically everything irritates you then that means you probably a messed up nerve in the brain.And it is not safe for you to just ignore it.how do I know so much about this type of stuff, I watch too much Grey's anamonty.

Go see a doctor immediately. It's not normal to be having these symptoms almost a year after the incident.

YES. Go to the doctor and tell them everything you said here.

If you haven't been evaluated since the accident you should probably go. My injury was 6/6/17. I still have ringing in the ears, sensitivity to light, headaches, confusion, and have difficulty processing.

My neurologist said only 15% of concussions resolve in 3 months. Some can take up to two years to resolve.

Family Secret:
Such good information, wish I knew this then (and could do something about it....). When I was 9 years old, I fell off a bucking horse, lost my head protection before my head slammed into the ground. I remember the pain and a 'blinding flash'(?) in my brain.

I felt very sick, don't remember if I vomited. When I was taken home, I had extremely high fever for many days.
(My mother who had been present at the fall, told my father I had caught some bad virus, and was never told the truth...as I found out when I was an adult and much older).

I used to be a brilliant kid before the accident/fall...photographic memory, top of my class and happy-go-lucky. A lot of it changed including memory, retention, personality and feeling like I was in a fog much of the time.

I am here to tell you that while my life changed (think lost opportunities and maybe related health challenges overcome and to come), there is hope. Without any diagnosis, I survived..... one day (literally and dramatically), the fog lifted and while I never regained my prowess as 'super-kid', I did function for much of my life. Maybe the brain regrew new pathways?

While I do feel the irresponsibility and abuse of one parent changed my life in childhood development years, I am more concerned at the age of 65, in preparing for the remaining years. Are the current loss of my vocabulary, memory and some confusion and decline in physical abilities, a result of longer term damage to my 9 year old self, or just my aging self?

Will the CT scan/Neurological test/MRI help at this stage?

Um... you all just need to go to the doctor. If you are even asking that question because you are not feeling “right” in any way after a blow to the head. Then yes, seek medical attention. Better to err on the side of caution...

You say that, but I really can't afford to get myself checked out. They turned me away at the health desk

Several years ago I fainted and smacked the right side of my head on a brick wall and was knocked out unconscious. I was out for almost 3 hrs and woke up at the bottom of the back steps -- most likely hit my head a few times falling down the steps after I had smacked into the wall. When I came to, I was convulsing for a few minutes before the convulsions stopped. I went to doctor that morning and everything was fine -- no symptoms of a concussion but several months later I suffered from vertigo and still now several years later suffer from occasional vertigo attacks. My question is: is it normal to have convulsions when coming out of a concussion? I was completely aware of what was happening but couldn't stop the convulsions, they stopped after a few minutes.
Sometimes, the symptoms of brain injury show up months later. I hit my head in mid-October and just a few weeks ago, I started having unexplained headaches, dizziness, and nausea. I had a CT scan out of an abundance of caution and then had a neuro workup. Sure enough, I failed most of the tests; a classic example of "limbic and mid-brain" concussion that did not heal. What works 50% of the time, is Neurofeedback, but fortunately, I know about Brainwave Optimization (Brain State Technology), which is much faster and works 100% of the time. So, I am doing that next week. If I'd known I had a concussion earlier, I would have stopped drinking wine, lifting weights and working so much, and taken the time to REST. Hindsight is 20/20...but maybe I can help someone else. Get a neuro workup, even if you feel okay. And look into Brainwave Optimization.

Thank you so much for this information, because this really helped me.

My girlfriend hits me all the time . I take the beatings because I'm afraid to be alone. My question is, how many concussions are dangerous?

Leave the girl and find a new one

Get out of that relationship. NOW, learn to like yourself.that is the only way you will grow as a human being .

Leave her she doesn't love you being alone is better then being beaten

Bruh. WTF?! Leave that relationship. She's not worth it. I know you're scared of being alone and I don't know why. When you're single you can do whatever the hell you want whenever you want. You only have one life. Don't be too scared to enjoy it. Once you leave her, believe me, you'll feel relief. She may say you can't leave her, that you're useless without her, blah, blah. She's just scared. She thrives when she's in control and if you don't let her be she has no power. Distance yourself from her. Cut all ties. And after you've had time to recover and get over whatever mental disorder she left you with and can start trying to find another relationship with someone who treats you right. I hope you realize that the relationship you're in is not common and there are happy ones. Just go for it. Like I said, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE. DON'T LIVE WITH REGRETS!

You need to leave her immediately. get out of there. and then go to urgent care.

First off, leave your abusive relationship-no one deserves to be the victim of domestic violence.
To your question: see a doctor, there isn’t a specific magic number since concussions have different degrees of severity.

My mom has a concussion I’m pretty sure but hasn’t even been taken to urgent care because she and my dad think she doesn’t need to. Should she go to urgent care?

I’ve had a series of concussions and for me, the more I resisted and the more I told people I was “fine” when it happened, the worse off I ended up being when I actually went into the hospital and was formally diagnosed. In sports, often the players are visibly angry at being taken out of the game for concussion protocol yet are later happy they were. As I write this, I’m two days into a recent a concussion so I apologize in advance for the poor sentence structure (I’m not kidding, unfortunately). My point: angry resistance is likely a sign that you have a concussion-you aren’t less of a man or woman for getting yourself checked out.

I got hit in the bridge of the nose really hard with a ball, it hurts bad and is swollen but i don't think broken. But the impact knock my head back and i feel a little dazed, headachey, light-sensitive, and nauseous. my whole face hurts pretty much. My parents don't think i should go to the doctor, what should i do?

Honestly? I don't mean this to be rude, but if you were my son, you'd have been to the dr. that very day. A little time spent at the dr. is considerably better than a life spent without your child. SMH

A couple of weeks ago I got hit with a ball near my right temple and think I blacked out for a couple of seconds. I had pretty bad headaches for about a week after that. I think it might have been a concussion will it have passed by now if I did get a concussion? I feel better now and don't have anymore frequent or really bad headaches do I still have to see the doctor?

If you feel good and it has been at least two weeks you should be fine.

Actually a month

I am 15 and yesterday during colorguard practice (colorguard is the girls during the football halftime shows that come out with the 5 feet long flags and twirl them around and toss them). But yeah we were doing the work for one of the sets and the girl next to me didn't move to her next spot which ended in me getting smacked by the medal part of the flag on my head a couple inches away from my left side temple. It stung for around 1 minute. Now its the next day and I have a headache and woke up later then normal. I don't know if that's the cause of me being naturally tired from the game or practice all week. Also the left side of my neck is starting to hurt. What do I do ?

Go to the Dr.(!)

go to the hospital, get it checked out.

I am 14 doing school cheerleading. I was back spotting a girl who was in the air when she fell right on top of my head. She hit the left side of my head/ear and I felt dizzy and my head stinged for about 20 seconds. I don't really know how to describe the feeling, but right after the blow, I could feel some liquid inside my head near my ear. It has been a few hours and I've been feeling super tired and sad, like I could cry at any second. My neck is sore. I don't really have headaches but my head sure feels bad. I don't think I feel "right" at all and it worries me. Don't know if I should go seek medical help at the moment.

I drank this weekend and I was over intoxicated I fell off my bed it's about 3feet up. My floor is concrete cause I live in a dorm I think my head bashed against the floor I'm having headaches and I have swelling on the left side of my head, and my left eye has also been bothering me as well should I wait and see if this goes away or should I go see a doctor?

I am 13 years old and yesterday one of my team mates spiked a volleyball and it hit me straight in the back of the head, I have a small headache maybe a migrain and I'm trying to figure out if I have a concussion

I was involved in a motorcycle accident and only started feeling nauseous dizzy and double vision headaches pain around my neck and fatigue the next day what should I do?
I flew out of my boyfriends jeep which has no doors, and hit the back if my head. How long do u wait to sleep
I fainted at work and fell straight back I hit my head on concrete I couldn't barely walk, my vision wasn't right, I had a weird taste in my mouth, my mouth was so dry. I couldn't focus, everything sounded weird around me. I was falling in and out of sleep and I still don't feel right today?

I hit my right frontal lobe over a week ago and within more or less 2 days I started feeling symptoms of a concussion. I am in fact 12 and am taking my standardized test but it's on a computer what should I do?

I am almost 14. Today i got hit on the head with a ball with a soccer ball. I was sent out of the game because I wasn't feeling to good and I am researching if I have a concussion. 

Omg I am also 14 and I also got hit by a rounders ball, it's the same as a baseball or cricket ball, and I am here for the same reason. Only problem is that my symptoms are on and off and I don't know if I'm just overreacting!

I just got in an auto accident today in FtW TX (I was rear ended and got shoved). The accident appeared minor, but the back of my head hit the seat. When I got out of the car, I got dizzy and I afterwards threw up and started to have cold sweats. Part of me thinks it is shock of the accident, but part of me is concerned: What if? The police dismissed the accident as minor, but I am still in pain and I am concerned. I asked my work mates and my husband to watch me the next couple days to see any abnormalities in my behavior. I can't afford a CT scan. The insurance told me it is up to me if I seek any medical tests, but I have to pay for it. What should I do?

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