What are the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion?

Most people with a concussion recover well from symptoms experienced at the time of the injury. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens. Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at risk of having another one. Some people may also find that it takes longer to recover if they have another concussion.

Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories:

 

Thinking/
RememberingPhysicalEmotional/
MoodSleep

Difficulty thinking clearlyHeadache

Fuzzy or blurry visionIrritabilitySleeping more than usual

Feeling slowed downNausea or vomiting
(early on)

Dizziness

Sadness

Sleep less than usual

Difficulty concentrating

Sensitivity to noise or light

Balance problems

More emotional

Trouble falling asleep

Difficulty remembering new information

Feeling tired, having no energy

Nervousness or anxiety 

Some of these symptoms may appear right away. Others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury, or until the person resumes their everyday life. Sometimes, people do not recognize or admit that they are having problems. Others may not understand their problems and how the symptoms they are experiencing impact their daily activities.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be difficult to sort out. Early on, problems may be overlooked by the person with the concussion, family members, or doctors. People may look fine even though they are acting or feeling differently.

See Getting Better, for tips to help aid your recovery after a concussion.

 

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

 

Danger Signs in Adults

In rare cases, a person with a concussion may form a dangerous blood clot that crowds the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you experience these danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to your head or body:

  • Headache that gets worse and does not go away.

  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.

  • Repeated vomiting or nausea.

  • Slurred speech.

 

The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you:

  • Look very drowsy or cannot wake up.

  • Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.

  • Have convulsions or seizures.

  • Cannot recognize people or places.

  • Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.

  • Have unusual behavior.

  • Lose consciousness.

Danger Signs in Children

Take your child to the emergency department right away if they received a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, and:

  • Have any of the danger signs for adults listed above.

  • Will not stop crying and are inconsolable.

  • Will not nurse or eat.

References

  1. Taylor CA, Bell JM, Breiding MJ, Xu L. Traumatic Brain Injury–Related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths — United States, 2007 and 2013. MMWR Surveill Summ 2017;66(No. SS-9):1–16. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6609a1 

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on mild traumatic brain injury in the United States: steps to prevent a serious public health problem. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.

  3. Coronado VG, Haileyesus T, Cheng TA, Bell JM, Haarbauer-Krupa J, Lionbarger MR, Flores-Herrera J, McGuire LC, Gilchrist J. Trends in sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries treated in US emergency departments: The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) 2001-2012. J Head Trauma Rehabil 2015; 30 (3): 185–197.