Signs of Concussion: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Apr 24, 2022

Signs of Concussion Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that can happen from a blow to the head or a sudden injury to the head and brain. While not every hit to the head will result in a concussion, it is important to get any head injury checked out by a medical professional to rule out a concussion.

A concussion can cause obvious signs and symptoms that should not be ignored. In many cases, a concussion will not be a life-threatening head injury. However, serious symptoms of a concussion can have a negative impact on your health and functioning. See a doctor as soon as possible to get started on concussion treatment to prevent further damage to your brain or complications from a head injury.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Concussions are perhaps best known in the sports arena. Athletes, especially those in contact sports like football, boxing, or hockey, are at greater risk for a concussion or traumatic brain injury. Tackling and other high-impact sports can lead to head and brain damage. However, a head injury like a concussion can happen to anyone.

A traumatic brain injury refers to brain dysfunction caused by a violent blow to the head or other outside force. A concussion is the most common example of a traumatic brain injury. Concussions can have both immediate and delayed symptoms, which means it might take hours or days for you to fully feel the effects of a mild traumatic brain injury like a concussion.

Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion

Signs of a concussion can vary based on your age and the severity of the injury. Symptoms of a concussion can be physical, cognitive, and emotional. It also helps to have a loved one or someone who witnessed the accident to observe any other concussion symptoms you may not be aware of right away. Here are the most common post-concussion symptoms after a mild traumatic brain injury.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of a concussion include headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise, double-vision, and nausea or vomiting. The first symptoms you recognize may be physical symptoms, depending on the severity of your injury. Other physical symptoms may include drowsiness, feeling sluggish, or fatigue. A concussion can also cause balance problems, slow reflexes, or even a loss of consciousness immediately after the blow to the head. It is not uncommon for a concussion to be accompanied by an injury to the spine. You may need to seek emergency medical attention if you experience or notice in someone else trouble waking up, seizures, constant vomiting, and slurred speech.

Cognitive Symptoms

A concussion can also cause cognitive symptoms that affect your ability to think and remember clearly. You may have trouble paying attention or experience confusion or disorientation after the accident. Other cognitive symptoms may include problems with short-term or long-term memory, and you might not be able to remember what happened right before or after the accident. Some cognitive symptoms of a concussion can last through the recovery period, including difficulty concentrating or focusing for long periods of time.

Emotional Symptoms

You may also experience emotional symptoms of a concussion. Emotional symptoms can include feeling irritable, moody, nervous, anxious, or increasingly sad and depressed. Some people experience sudden outbursts of emotion after a concussion. Physical and cognitive symptoms can be distressing after a concussion and make certain feelings like anxiety or irritability worse.

Observed Symptoms

Sometimes it is easier to recognize symptoms of a concussion in others than in ourselves. A loved one or witness to the injury may also observe signs and symptoms of a concussion in you. They may notice you being more clumsy than normal, looking dazed and staring off into space, or repeating yourself due to issues with memory and cognition. Another person may be better able to observe changes in your mood, behaviors, or personality after a head trauma like a concussion. Sometimes a loved one will observe someone with a concussion as looking like they are “in a fog.”

Types of Concussions

When you go to the doctor for a concussion, they will rank or grade your traumatic brain injury based on the severity. While a head injury like a concussion can be painful, it is typically not life-threatening. However, regardless of whether or not you lose consciousness with a concussion, you should always talk to your doctor after a head injury. Here are the three grades of a concussion.

Grade 1 Concussion

A grade 1 concussion typically causes mild concussion symptoms that last 15 minutes or less. A grade 1 concussion will also not involve loss of consciousness. Common symptoms of a grade 1 concussion include headache, trouble focusing, dizziness, mild memory loss, and nausea.

Grade 2 Concussion

A grade 2 concussion is considered a moderate concussion with symptoms lasting longer than 15 minutes. A grade 2 concussion also does not involve loss of consciousness. In addition to other symptoms, a grade 2 concussion may include ringing in the ears, irritability, and difficulty with long-term memory.

Grade 3 Concussion

A grade 3 concussion is the most severe form of concussion where the person loses consciousness due to the head injury. Loss of consciousness may last only seconds or could last longer. A grade 3 concussion can cause severe symptoms like vomiting, slurred speech, and amnesia that lasts longer than 24 hours.

Common Causes of a Concussion

The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which provides a layer of cushion and flexibility between the brain and the skull. The skull is a hard, protective bone that helps keep your brain safe. However, a sudden blow to the head can cause your soft and squishy brain to collide with the skull. When your brain is jostled and jolted around, it can cause damage to brain cells and negatively impact chemicals in the brain. This can impact how your brain functions, which results in a wide range of symptoms. Here are 3 common causes of a concussion.

Car Accident Injury

Head injuries are a common type of car accident injury. While your seat belt helps protect you from shoulder to hip, there is not an equivalent safety feature to protect your head and neck from getting jostled around in the event of a wreck. A car accident can cause your head and neck to snap forward and backward violently. You may hit your head on part of the vehicle, like the window, dashboard, or steering wheel. If you suffer a blow to the head during a car accident, you should get checked out as soon as possible for a concussion.

Sports Injury

Sports can also lead to concussions, especially high-contact sports, including football, soccer, hockey, and boxing. Children are also at greater risk of suffering a concussion while playing sports. Getting hit in the head by a ball or another person can lead to a traumatic brain injury like a concussion. Sports leagues across the nation continue to develop rules and regulations around head injuries and to increase response times and interventions for traumatic brain injuries and concussions. Athletes of all ages and skill levels can suffer a concussion while playing sports.

Slip & Fall

A fall at home or at work can lead to a concussion if you hit your head. An accidental slip and fall can also lead to mild concussion symptoms even if you didn’t directly hit your head. The sudden impact of the fall can jostle your body enough that it negatively impacts your brain. Falls can also put you at risk for other slip and fall injuries like a sprained ankle or broken hip. Many people are surprised to learn that slip and fall accidents can cause a traumatic brain injury. If you have a bump or bruise on your head and notice any signs and symptoms of a concussion, talk to your doctor right away.

Diagnosing a Concussion

If you suffer a head injury, your doctor will want to run tests to diagnose or rule out a traumatic brain injury. While some concussions can go away on their own without medical intervention, it is important to get evaluated by a doctor to determine the severity of your injury. Here is what you can expect when you suspect you have a concussion and visit the doctor.

Medical History

When you visit a doctor for a concussion, it will be helpful to share information about your medical history. It is important to tell your doctor if you have ever had a concussion before. They will also want to know about any recent surgeries or other injuries. Your doctor will also want to know how the head injury occurred and what symptoms you have noticed since the accident.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will want to perform a physical examination to look for any signs and symptoms of a concussion. This may include asking you to stand up, move around, and perform certain motions to test your reflexes, balance, and vision. This is an opportunity for your doctor to look for physical signs of a concussion, like changes in your pupil size, sensitivity to light, and irregular eye movements. Your doctor will also want to locate where the blow to the head occurred because different parts of the brain control different functions in the body.

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests can also help inform a diagnosis of concussion after a recent head injury. A CT scan or MRI will provide your doctor with highly detailed images of your brain and surrounding areas. The doctors understand the value of an MRI after a traumatic brain injury because it helps them look for other serious injuries or damage to the brain, including swelling, bruising, or bleeding on the brain. Other tests can help monitor brain waves and test your nerve responses and interactions with the brain. An electroencephalogram, or EEG, will test the electrical activity in the brain, while nerve tests like an NCV or EMG can assess nerve functioning. Other tests may include verbal, written, or computerized testing that assess your cognition, thinking ability, memory, and concentration.

What Is Post-Concussion Syndrome?

One of the long-term complications of a mild traumatic brain injury is post-concussion syndrome. Most people who suffer a concussion only have symptoms that last for a few days before they can slowly reintroduce regular activities into their schedule. With post-concussion syndrome, you may continue to experience symptoms of a concussion for weeks or even months. Extended symptoms with post-concussion syndrome like dizziness, spinning, headaches, and concentration problems can impact your ability to return to your regular routine. People who have suffered multiple concussions are at a higher risk for developing post-concussion syndrome. In fact, multiple concussions can cause structural brain injuries and lead to ongoing symptoms.

Treatment Options for a Concussion

The most important thing you can do for your health after a concussion is to get plenty of rest. Both physical and mental rest will help you fully recover from a concussion. Your doctor will talk to you about how to reintroduce activities gently and safely into your routines and avoid certain activities that may aggravate concussion symptoms. While it is okay to participate in activities that don’t worsen your symptoms, you don’t want to end up feeling worse than before. Treatment options for a concussion will vary depending on your symptoms and the severity of your head injury. Here are examples of how to treat a concussion.

Managing Symptoms at Home

You may be able to manage your symptoms at home after a mild, grade 1 concussion. For the first 24 hours after a concussion, you will want to limit screen time and straining your eyes. This can include texting, watching tv, reading, or playing video games. Instead, focus on resting both your body and your mind after the accident. If you notice your symptoms continue or get worse after 72 hours, then you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care can provide you with natural approaches to pain relief and other symptoms associated with a concussion. A chiropractor can help you recover from damage to the brain and nervous system. While chiropractic care does not directly treat a head injury, it is a great option for treatment in combination with other approaches. Realignment of the spine can help reduce nerve interference and restore healthy functioning so your brain can more effectively communicate with the rest of your body. A chiropractor can also help you manage symptoms like dizziness, issues with balance, and physical coordination after the accident.


Neurologists diagnose and treat injuries and disorders that impact the nervous system. A neurologist may perform tests that help diagnose a traumatic brain injury like a concussion. Neurology tests are designed to measure your strength, reflexes, balance, coordination, and nerve function. A neurologist can also consult on neurological symptoms after a concussion and how to avoid long-term complications after an injury. If you are concerned about post-concussion syndrome, then talk to your neurologist about the severity of your symptoms and concussion symptom treatment.

Physical Therapy

A concussion can cause a wide range of symptoms, and a physical therapist can help you work through and avoid lasting effects from a traumatic brain injury. When you get physical therapy after a concussion, your physical therapist can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms like pain and headaches. If you experience dizziness after a concussion, a physical therapist can walk you through vestibular therapy and other therapeutic techniques to help improve your balance. Physical therapy after a concussion can also help you regain your strength and endurance so you can return to your regular activities or sports.

Concussion Prevention

While it is impossible to completely avoid a concussion, there are things you can do to help prevent this type of injury in the future. Practice driving defensively and eliminate distractions while driving so you can avoid car accidents that put you at risk for a concussion or other serious injury. Learn safe techniques and behaviors for playing sports, like avoiding headbutting or other blows to the head and chest during football. Wearing properly fitted safety gear can help protect you. Make sure your home is a safe place to be and clear walkways to help avoid the risk of falling.

If you have suffered a concussion before, you want to avoid this type of head injury again in the future. One of the best ways to prevent a future injury or complications from a concussion is to make plenty of time for recovery. Going back to sports or other activities too quickly can cause your symptoms to flare up again, and you risk aggravating the injury.

Visit AICA Orthopedics near you for quality, comprehensive concussion care. Our team of doctors includes orthopedic doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who work together to provide you with the treatment and care you need to fully recover. We offer in-house diagnostic imaging tests so you can get everything you need all in one convenient location. Find an AICA Orthopedics location near you and get started with a team of highly knowledgeable and skilled doctors for concussion treatment as soon as possible.




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