A concussion is a term often heard in connection with sports-related head injuries, especially in contact sports like football and rugby. It is a brain injury where the brain feels shaken, resulting in specific clinical symptoms, and is often the result of direct blows to the head, face, or neck. A strike elsewhere on the body could also result in a concussion if the impulsive force is transmitted to the head.
Typically, 80–90% of concussions get resolved within a period of 7–10 days. However, kids and adolescents may take a little longer than adults. Those participating in sports and parents of kids who actively take part in sports should watch out for certain symptoms to ensure that a concussion is caught early on. While the symptoms usually present themselves immediately after an injury, they may be delayed at times too. Here are 6 symptoms that are likely to indicate a possible concussion.
1. Persistent Headache
A severe, persistent, and worsening headache that does not seem to subside even after a few days, especially after any impactful blows, most probably means that you are having a concussion.1 While such a headache is usually also accompanied by other symptoms, a headache, in general, should not be taken lightly, especially by sports players and athletes.
Feeling hazy, fatigued, or as if engulfed by fog are some ways in which people describe this symptom. If you’re experiencing fogginess caused by a concussion, you are also likely to experience vomiting and a headache. You may also notice that the time taken for you to react to things will increase and the speed at which you process information will decrease.2 If you notice such symptoms even a week after the concussion, get yourself checked by a doctor immediately to rule out possible complications.
Amnesia, or loss of memory, that is mostly temporary is one of the possible symptoms of a concussion. However, you are not likely to experience loss of memory regarding autobiographical information, such as your name and birth date. You will most likely be unable to remember things leading up to the injury or a little beyond that. And most often, this memory loss lasts just for a few hours. If you lost consciousness immediately after the impact, it is possible that you will find it difficult to remember the details right after waking up. Prolonged amnesia is usually what is a cause for concern and must be evaluated further.3
If you’re feeling lightheaded and are unable to maintain posture on your own after a head or neck injury, especially while standing up, you are most likely feeling dizzy as a result of a concussion. This is usually the result of impairment of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) – the part of your nervous system that regulates bodily functions like digestion and heart rate without your conscious knowledge.4 If the dizziness is persistent and you experience it with other symptoms, then you should seek medical attention immediately.
5. Poor Sleep Quality
Concussed athletes often complain of issues with their sleep quality. This means that they experience sleep problems like insomnia (being unable to sleep), decreased sleep, increased sleep, or drowsiness. However, a study conducted on concussed athletes noted that wakefulness problems are more common in sport-related concussions than sleep disturbances.5
6. Vision Problems
You’re likely to have suffered a concussion following a head or neck injury if you’re experiencing vision problems like blurred vision or double vision. This could be due to issues with your cranial nerves resulting in either an inability to fix your vision on something or dilated pupils.6
Apart from the ones already discussed, here are a few common symptoms of a concussion that may either occur alone or in combination with other symptoms.7
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Difficulty in movements
- Slurred speech
- Light sensitivity
If you feel listless and are unable to remember things instantaneously for a while after an injury or fall, go to an ER for a thorough evaluation to rule out serious problems.
|↑1, ↑6, ↑7||Scorza, Keith A., Meghan F. Raleigh, and Francis G. O’Connor. “Current concepts in concussion: evaluation and management.” American family physician 85, no. 2 (2012).|
|↑2||Iverson, Grant L., Michael Gaetz, Mark R. Lovell, and Michael W. Collins. “Relation between subjective fogginess and neuropsychological testing following concussion.” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 10, no. 6 (2004): 904-906.|
|↑3||Ropper, Allan H., and Kenneth C. Gorson. “Concussion.” New England Journal of Medicine 356, no. 2 (2007): 166-172.|
|↑4||Goodman, Brent, Bert Vargas, and David Dodick. “Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction in Concussion (P01. 265).” Neurology 80, no. 7 Supplement (2013): P01-265.|
|↑5||Gosselin, Nadia, Maryse Lassonde, Dominique Petit, Suzanne Leclerc, Valérie Mongrain, Alex Collie, and Jacques Montplaisir. “Sleep following sport-related concussions.” Sleep medicine 10, no. 1 (2009): 35-46.|