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Recognizing a Concussion

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Illustration of a brain hitting the inside of the skull

Recognizing a concussion

What is a concussion? A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement may cause the brain to bounce or twist in the skull and can create a chemical change in the brain, stretching and damaging brain cells.

Most people that experience a concussion recover well from symptoms at the time of the injury. However, there are some that can experience symptoms for days, weeks or even longer. Recovery may be slower among older adults, young children and teens. Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at a higher risk of having another one and may find that the recovery time may be more extensive.

Some symptoms of a concussion may appear right away. Others may not be noticed for days or even months after the injury. Many do not recognize or admit that they are having problems or symptoms. Others may not understand how the symptoms they are experiencing impact their daily activities.

Danger Signs

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 any of the following symptoms 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

You should be taken to an emergency department right away if you:

  • Look very drowsy or cannot wake up
  • Have one pupil 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
Animation of a Concussion Video
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