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Identifying the Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Updated May 16, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Concussions are very common; however, they’re often not treated like the serious injuries that they really are. Possibly because they’re relatively easy to obtain—especially when participating in contact sports such as football, soccer, rugby, or lacrosse. In these sports, players are often told to “shake it off” or to “be a man” when, in reality, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can’t just be ignored.

Causes of Concussions

Concussions occur when an individual suffers a hard blow to the head, causing the brain to hit or bounce off the sides of the skull. In addition to sports-related injuries, concussions are also common in other instances when a person’s face, neck, or upper body experience sudden acceleration and deceleration or violent shaking, such as in a car accident.

Your brain is squishy like Jell-O, and is, therefore, incredibly sensitive. It’s surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid to protect it from everyday bumps, but when a head is violently hit or shaken, the fluid can only do so much. These blows change the chemicals in the brain, and whether an individual suffers 1 or 100 traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), the chemicals in the brain are permanently altered.

Concussion Symptoms in Adults

A physician is not always necessary to diagnose a concussion. However, it’s in the best interest of the individual to have a brief evaluation by a professional. Symptoms of a concussion can develop right away or may take a few hours or days to notice.

The most common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss, typically related to the incident
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headaches or the feeling of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Acting disoriented or confused
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Dizziness or seeing spots
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Slurred speech and delayed responses
  • Ears ringing
  • Forgetfulness or amnesia

Whether an individual is evaluated by a physician or not, it’s important to closely monitor the injured party in the hours and days after the brain injury. Even though a concussion is classified as a “minor” brain injury, the complications can still be fatal. Any type of brain injury should be taken seriously and can lead to bleeding in or around the brain. If prolonged drowsiness and worsening confusion creep up, seek emergency medical attention.


Symptoms of a concussion aren’t always immediate. It may take hours or days for them to surface. Stay alert and look for the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Concentration and memory issues
  • Irritability or other inconsistent personality changes
  • Differences in taste and smell

Concussion Symptoms in Children

Identifying a concussion in a baby or toddler can be tough because they don’t have the verbal skills to communicate their symptoms. Be aware of these nonverbal signs instead:

  • Appearing dazed or disoriented
  • Disinterested in favorite toys
  • Loss of balance or unsteadiness
  • Excessive crying
  • Irritability
  • Change in sleeping and eating habits

Kids can be good at brushing off trips, falls, and head bumps, so they might not make a huge fuss about a particularly hard hit to the head. Even if they don’t show any of these signs, making an appointment with a family physician for an evaluation is recommended.

Complications After a Concussion

The human body is very resilient, but unfortunately, long-term complications can arise after a concussion. An individual who has suffered from a TBI is now at a higher risk of:

  • Cumulative effects of multiple brain injuries: Research suggests that multiple TBIs over the course of a lifetime can cause potentially lifelong impairments that inhibit an individual from functioning normally
  • CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), an irreversible, progressive form of brain disease
  • Post-traumatic headaches and vertigo
  • Second impact syndrome: Acquiring a second TBI before the brain has fully recovered can result in rapid—generally fatal—swelling and bleeding of the brain
  • Epilepsy
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders

Concussion Treatment Options

Even though the chemicals in the brain have been altered from the injury, “normalcy” may still return. Treatment for a concussion is as follows:

  • Visit a physician
  • Rest
  • Avoid physical exertion, such as sports, exercise, lifting heavy objects, etc.
  • Avoid activities that involve a lot of focusing and mental energy, such as using a computer, watching TV, playing video games, reading, and even schoolwork, until symptoms reside completely
  • For headaches, simply take Tylenol (or any acetaminophen pain reliever). Stay away from ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin), as this medication may worsen symptoms

If a physician recommends a certain amount of downtime and symptoms are still present, be sure to follow up. Concussions often do not show up on a CT scan, so paying attention to how the brain is feeling is the best way to determine when to resume regular activities. There’s no magic number, so wait for symptoms to rid themselves entirely before returning to a regular routine.

Contact a Brain Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have sustained a concussion caused by the negligence of another party, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Brain Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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