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How do I know if I have a concussion?

How Do I know If I Have a Concussion?

by Kimberly Smith, PT, DPT, VRTLeave a Comment

Contrary to belief, a concussion injury does not have to be sustained by a direct blow to the head. In 2014, falls were the leading cause of mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Falls accounted for 47% of all TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States in 2014. (CDC) Being struck by or against an object was the second leading cause of TBI, accounting for about 15% of TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. in 2014. (CDC) Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third leading cause of TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations, and deaths (14%) in the U.S. in 2014. (CDC) Approximately 1 in 4 mild traumatic brain injuries in adults occurred at work. (Terry, 2018)

Symptoms that one may experience after sustaining a concussion include:

  • Headaches or pressure in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish or slowed down
  • Drowsiness
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Amnesia
  • “Don’t feel right”
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Sadness, irritability, or anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Concentration or memory problems

Other signs that a loved one, coach, or first responder may be able to recognize are:

  • Appears dazed
  • Vacant facial expressions
  • Confused about assignments or forgetful
  • Moves clumsily or displays incoordination
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Slurred speech
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after the injury
  • Seizures or convulsions

If you or someone suspects a concussion injury, follow these recommendations:

  1. Do not return to work or competition the same day as injury.
  2. Do not resume physical activity until instructed by a physician.
  3. Limit visual and auditory stimulation ONLY if signs or symptoms increase with use.
  4. Let them sleep! No need to wake up every couple of hours or stay awake.
  5. Regulate eating, hydration, and sleep as much as possible.
  6. Receive a proper evaluation and diagnosis from a trained medical professional. A Doctor, Athletic Trainer, or Physical Therapist trained in concussion management is the best front-line provider of symptom management and will guides you through the next steps.

Do I have to lose consciousness to have a concussion?

NO! If there is a loss of consciousness, that means you sustained a concussive injury; however, you don’t HAVE to lose consciousness for it to be diagnosed as a concussion. Loss of consciousness should always be taken seriously, even if it is only for a brief amount of time.

Should I go to the ER if I think I have a concussion?

While not everyone will require emergency room care, if someone experiences any of the following symptoms, they should be evaluated in an emergency room.

  • Concern for a spinal cord or neck injury
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Drowsy and cannot be awakened
  • Headache that continues to increase in intensity
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Or becomes increasingly confused, restless, or agitated.

Let us at Athletico take the guesswork out for you! Request an appointment today to meet with a Concussion trained therapist about the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing or if you think you may have a concussion.

Request a Free Assessment

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
2. Terry DP et al. Workplace and non-workplace mild traumatic brain injuries in an outpatient clinic sample: A case-control study. PLOS. 2018

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About the Author:
Kimberly (Kimi) Smith is a Vestibular Physical Therapist with Athletico, specializing in treating vertigo and post-concussions. The "dizzy population" is her passion, having treated this population since 2012. Combining her love for athletics and her Physical Therapy profession has been the main focus of Kimi's career. As a former CCWHA hockey player, she enjoys educating athletes on the importance of injury prevention and healthy training to improve their competitive abilities. The team approach to concussion management has led her to become a respectful resource in the area.

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