11 signs and symptoms of a concussion and where to seek help

Picture of a woman holding her head

Neuropsychologist Kate Higgins, PsyD, ABPP-CN and athletic trainer Rusty McConne, ATC, treat concussions regularly. Here they share what to watch and when to seek help.

“A concussion is the same as a mild traumatic brain injury, which means a traumatic brain injury,” says Dr. Higgins. TBIs vary in severity. “In the case of a severe brain injury, we would fully expect to see long-term cognitive changes. But for a mild brain injury or concussion, most people recover well if they get good post-concussion care.”

11 concussion symptoms to watch for

“The onset of concussion symptoms can be immediate or delayed,” McConne says. “Everyone will experience onset, duration, and severity differently.”

What the person feels:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Not feeling foggy or feeling foggy
  • Loss of memory when the collision occurs

Signs of a concussion that others may notice include:

  • loss of balance
  • loss of coordination
  • You look dazed or dazed
  • Changes in behavior and mood

“You can also get a concussion from a whiplash,” says Dr. Higgins. “Neck pain can be a source of headaches.”

Where to go when a concussion is serious

The best way to deal with concussions is by those who have been trained to deal with concussions. Most do not need a trip to the emergency room. However, if any of the following red flags are seen, experienced, or reported, go to the emergency room as they may be signs of a more serious infection.

Red flags that indicate a more serious injury:

  • Unconsciousness
  • A headache that is persistent or getting worse
  • Repeated vomiting
  • unclear
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms/legs
  • unusual behavior
  • Inability to recognize people or places
  • Inability to wake up

Will concussions show up on an MRI or CT scan? number

“A brain with concussion always looks perfectly fine on MRI and CT—the most common types of brain imaging,” explains Dr. Higgins.

How does a concussion affect

“Concussions change how well the brain communicates,” says Dr. Higgins. “A concussion causes very small changes, at the level of neurons, that affect how the brain communicates.”

It’s almost like building roads in your mind. You can still get from point A to point B, but it will take longer and will take more effort.

Preventing exacerbation of concussion symptoms

Maintaining a second concussion tends to produce more severe symptoms and take longer to heal.

“We don’t want you to hit your head again while you’re recovering,” says Dr. Higgins. “Ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill for gentle exercise. A little physical activity will help you recover.”

“It’s important to avoid putting yourself in situations that will predispose you to having another concussion before the first heals,” McConn says. “Also, report your symptoms to your provider. This includes changes in symptoms and an increase in symptoms you already have.”

Does concussion heal itself? yes

“The brain is really good at healing itself after a concussion,” says Dr. Higgins. “Research gives us different answers, but a rough estimate is that it takes between two and four weeks to recover. Children take a little longer to recover from a concussion.”

It is important to return to your normal life as soon as possible. “You may need to reduce the amount of cognitive work at school or your job,” Dr. Higgins explains. “Getting back into your routine gives you purpose and adds good structure to your day.”

“Sleep really helps the brain recover,” says Dr. Higgins. “If you have trouble sleeping, tell your doctor.” “Also report if you feel any symptoms of anxiety or depression.”

“People experience and recover from concussions in different ways,” McConn says. “There is no magic formula for what can be done to aid recovery.” “However, if they protect themselves, report what they are going through and follow the recommendations of their health care provider, they are doing things that can aid the recovery process.”

How to help your brain heal:

  1. Gentle exercise, without putting yourself at risk of getting another blow to the head
  2. Get enough sleep, which is critical to the healing process
  3. Occupational therapy and physical therapy to retrain brain systems

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