Recognize the Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion

Word cloud for ConcussionFootball – love it or hate it, you can’t avoid it at the moment with the big game coming up. But you don’t have to play football to run the risk of suffering a concussion; just this past week two former professional wrestlers filed a lawsuit accusing their organization of ignoring the dangers of concussion. Many of you will probably have to deal with patients suffering from a concussion – a traumatic brain injury that alters the way the brain functions – in your careers. For students and graduates of the Physical Therapist Assistant or Physical Therapy Technology programs, you may deal with athletes who have taken a blow to the head. A registered nurse in an emergency room may often see trauma patients with concussion symptoms. Just as it’s useful to know CPR techniques no matter what your health care profession, it also helps to know the symptoms of a concussion. This could be useful in both your personal and professional life, and it could help save a life.

Common Concussion Symptoms1

  • Headache/pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  • Amnesia about the accident
  • Dizziness/”Seeing stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Slurred speech/Delayed response to questions
  • Appearing dazed
  • Fatigue

Some symptoms may be immediate or delayed in onset by hours or days after injury, such as:

  • Concentration and memory complaints
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell

Concussion statistics are typically unreliable because no one knows how many cases go undiagnosed each year. Because most events don’t result in unconsciousness, some people don’t realize they’ve suffered a concussion, which is why they go untreated…and that makes the stats unreliable. We do know concussions are common, particularly if a patient plays a contact sport. Although they’re typically caused by a head injury, they can also be a result of the head and upper body being violently shaken. Incidents such as a car crash, or even domestic violence, can lead to a concussion without a direct blow to the head being sustained.2 If someone experiences a head injury or you think they may have suffered a concussion, even if emergency care isn’t required, always recommend they see their doctor within 24/48 hours. For more serious symptoms, such as loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds, or repeated vomiting, or seizures, have them seek out immediate emergency care.

1 – These lists provided by staff at the Mayo Clinic.

2 –

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