Symptoms of Concussion

  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Headache, dizziness, and blurred vision
  • Occasional nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to remember events immediately prior to or following the injury
  • Drowsiness, mental confusion
  • Persistent insomnia, headaches, dizziness, irritability, moodiness, and depression—This combination of symptoms is known as post-concussive syndrome and may continue for several weeks or months.
  • Slow thinking, impaired concentration, and slurred speech—known as punch-drunk syndrome—as a result of repeated concussions (an occupational hazard for boxers)

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is characterized by a brief loss of consciousness following an injury or blow to the head. The blow is forceful enough to cause the brain to bump against the skull and temporarily disturb the normal electrical activity in the brain, but it is not traumatic enough to result in more severe injuries such as cerebral lacerations or bruises. Indeed, concussion is the mildest form of brain-skull impact, and full recovery generally occurs within 24 to 48 hours; however, repeated concussions may eventually cause permanent brain damage.

What Causes Concussion?

  • Automobile crashes, industrial accidents, and falls are the most common causes of head injury.
  • Blows to the head sustained due to boxing, sports injuries, or physical assault may cause a concussion.

Prevention of Concussion

  • Wear lap and shoulder belts in the car.
  • Wear a helmet if you ride a motorcycle or bicycle.
  • Wear protective headgear when playing sports.

Diagnosis of Concussion

  • Your doctor will request a thorough description of the accident or event that resulted in the concussion.
  • An observation period of 24 to 48 hours will be recommended to monitor your mental state, level of alertness, and any symptoms.
  • X-rays of the neck and CT (computed tomography) scans of the brain may be necessary.

How Concussion Is Treated

  • Call a doctor immediately after any loss of consciousness following a head injury. The doctor will recommend 24 hours of bed rest under observation.
  • Avoid driving a car until the doctor has ruled out any complications.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be recommended to relieve pain. However, avoid aspirin, because it may provoke internal bleeding.

When to Call a Doctor

  • See a doctor immediately if you or someone you know has sustained a concussion. The doctor will run tests to determine whether more severe head injuries have occurred in addition to the concussion.
  • Call a doctor if the initial symptoms do not diminish within a few days after the first examination.
  • Emergency—After the preliminary examination, call the doctor back immediately if any of the following symptoms occur:
    • the patient cannot awaken or is incoherent upon awakening
    • convulsions
    • severe headaches
    • double vision
    • repeated vomiting
    • visual disturbances
    • seizures
    • persistent drowsiness
    • shortness of breath
    • speech difficulty
    • staggering gait

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 28 Jul 2010

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2014