What Is a Concussion?
A concussion results from a forceful blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull, which may or may not cause a loss of consciousness. A concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) because it causes either a brief change in mental status or consciousness.
This injury causes brain tissue to change shape or stretch, in addition to chemical and metabolic changes. This damage may change how the cells in your brain normally work or communicate. A mild TBI is usually not life-threatening; however, the effects of a concussion can be serious.
Causes of Concussion
Concussions can happen after a fall, car accident, trauma, or in any organized sport or recreational activity. Concussions are more likely to occur in athletic environments where collisions are common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report:
- An estimated 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions happen in the United States each year; however, as many as 50 percent of the concussions may go unreported.1
- Sports and recreation-related concussions are a leading cause of TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits among children and teens.1
- Children and teens make up approximately 70 percent of all sports- and recreation-related concussions seen in the emergency department.1
- Children have the highest rate of emergency department visits for traumatic brain (TBI) injury of all age groups.1
- Concussions occur in all sports with the highest incidence in football, hockey, rugby, soccer, and basketball.2
- The largest number of sports and recreation-related TBIs among males occurred during bicycling, football, and basketball.2
- Among females, the largest number of sports and recreation-related TBIs occurred during bicycling, playground activities, and horseback riding.2
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Report to Congress: The Management of Traumatic Brain Injury in Children, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Atlanta, GA.
- Harmon, Kimberly G., et al. “American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Position Statement.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, vol. 23, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1–18., doi:10.1097/jsm.0b013e31827f5f93.
If you think you or someone you know may have a concussion, it's important to watch for concussion signs and symptoms that require emergency medical attention.
- Balance problems
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sensitivity to noise
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Unequal pupils
Mental/ Thinking/ Remembering
- Difficulty remembering
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to think clearly
- Inability to remember new information
- Mental fogginess
- Trouble paying attention
- Loss of focus
- Feeling slow
- Sleeping more than usual
- Unable to fall asleep
- Sleeping less than usual
- Easily angered or upset (irritable)
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Feeling sad
- Feeling more emotional
- Lack of interest in usual activities
How Long Does a Concussion Last?
Signs and symptoms of concussion can last from several minutes to hours, sometimes days to weeks, or in some cases months. Anyone who experiences any of these signs or symptoms after a bump or blow to the head should be seen by a health care professional who has experience evaluating concussions to help address symptoms early and prevent prolonged recovery.
Post-concussion syndrome (PCS), is the persistence of concussion symptoms beyond the normal course of recovery (one to two weeks). In cases where concussion symptoms last longer than one or two months, providers often diagnose PCS.
Patients with PCS can experience concussion-like symptoms in response to too much physical activity, screen time, or focus/attention, often impacting their ability to work or study. Below are some examples of signs or symptoms of PCS:
- Neck pain
- Numbness or tingling in arms or legs
- Dizziness or nausea
- Balance problems
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Intellectual or cognitive difficulties
Many patients benefit from various therapies to reduce these symptoms. Our providers will help you determine which services are best suited for your individual needs.
Find a Concussion Specialist Near You
What to Expect at Your First Appointment with a Concussion Specialist
During your initial visit, one of our specialized providers will thoroughly review your injury, recent symptoms, and will complete a physical examination based on your injury. From these findings, we will provide recommendations for treatment to address your symptoms.
Screening & Analysis
Depending on your injury, we will conduct some of the following screenings and analyses during your first appointment:
Imaging tests (if recommended)—Imaging may include X-rays to look for fractures of the bones of the head/neck or other areas involved. MRI/CT scans may be recommended to look at the brain for bleeding or swelling.
Head and neck screening—This screening will look at your ability to move your head and neck in all directions and assess if there are areas of pain/discomfort or restriction. If there are problems, it typically indicates joint or muscle involvement. Your provider will determine if this is concerning and will require further follow up.
Symptom report scale—It is important for providers to determine what symptoms you are experiencing and to what degree to make appropriate recommendations. This will also help your provider track your progress over time.
Vision screen—You provider will be looking for abnormal eye movements (difficulty looking in different directions, scanning back/forth or up/down, holding your gaze on a target). Some individuals will experience dizziness, headache, nausea, or fogginess with this screening.
This will help the provider determine if you need to see a physical therapist for vestibular therapy or a vision therapist.
Balance screen—After a concussion you may experience the sensation of disorientation, dizziness, or feeling off-balance. Your provider will complete testing to look at your ability to balance in different conditions to determine if you need to see a physical therapist for balance training.
If you are referred to a specialist, you may also complete tests that analyze your reaction times, memory, problem solving and cognition.
How to Make an Appointment
To schedule an appointment, please call our central phone number 801-581-2221. Please notify the representative that you are calling for our concussion team/program.