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 (148)

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 ?

Yes you should. You need to go see a doctor and rest. You should also stop going to school/work for a few days and just rest.

YES!!!! Tell the nurse everything and go see a doctor!!

i just recently got hit pretty hard on my head during my soccer game about 2 hours ago. i think i am ok, but my vision was a bit blurry after about 10 minutes, and i also had nausea and a bad headache. i'm not sure if it could be from car sickness or perhaps a mild concussion. should i play in my game tomorrow or sit it out??

I've been experiencing lots of dizziness, headaches and I feel like the world is spinning for the past 24 hours. I've also been taking a lot of naps and feeling tired, but I usually don't ever take naps. Last night I fell and hit my head, could I maybe have a concussion?

I got rocked pretty hard in hockey tonight in a sort of head on collision. I’m not entirely sure where the hit came from, I’m a little foggy on that part still but it’s kind of coming back now. This was about 2 hours ago, I have a headache and one of my ears is ringing. Nothing wrong with my vision but my head does feel somewhat stuffy. Could this be a mild concussion?

Yes, go ahead and get it checked out by a doctor.

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!

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