What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury. It can’t be seen on X-rays, CT scans or MRIs. It may affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts.
Any blow to the head, face or neck may cause a concussion. A concussion may also be caused by a blow to the body if the force of the blow causes the brain to move around inside the skull. A concussion can happen to anyone – anywhere – including:
- at home, school or your workplace
- following a car, bike or pedestrian accident
- from participating in games, sports or other physical activity
A concussion is a serious injury. While the effects are typically short-term, a concussion can lead to long-lasting symptoms and even long-term effects.
What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Everyone can help recognize a possible concussion if they know what to look for. A person with a concussion might have any of the signs or symptoms listed below. They might show up right away or hours, or even days later. Just one sign or symptom is enough to suspect a concussion. Most people with a concussion do not lose consciousness.
Common signs and symptoms:
- Pressure in the head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Ringing in the ears
- Balance problems
- Tired or low energy
- “Don’t feel right”
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Having a hard time falling asleep
- Not thinking clearly
- Slower thinking
- Feeling confused
- Problems concentrating
- Problems remembering
- Irritability (easily upset or angered)
- Nervous or anxious
“Red flags” may mean the person has a more serious injury. Treat red flags as an emergency and call 911.
Red flags include:
- Neck pain or tenderness
- Double vision
- Weakness or tingling in arms or legs
- Severe or increasing headache
- Seizure or convulsion
- Loss of consciousness (knocked out)
- Vomiting more than once
- Increasingly restless, agitated or aggressive
- Getting more and more confused
What steps should I follow if someone I know, or myself, is suspected of having a concussion?
Follow these three steps if you — or someone you know — experiences a blow to the head, face, neck or body and you suspect a concussion. Call 911 if you are concerned the injury is life-threatening, such as the person is unconscious or they had a seizure.
- Recognize signs and symptoms of a concussion and remove yourself or the athlete from the sport/physical activity, even if you feel OK or they insist they are OK.
- Get yourself or the athlete checked out by a physician or nurse practitioner.
- Support gradual return to school and sport.
These resources are not intended to provide medical advice relating to health care. For advice on health care for concussion symptoms, please consult with a physician or nurse practitioner.