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If you or someone you know hit their head from falling or playing sports, you might wonder how to tell if it’s a bump or something more serious like a concussion. Here’s some information that might help you:
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a forceful bump or jolt to the head. A person may get a concussion from sports, a fall, a car accident, or any other incident that leads to the head moving back and forth rapidly.
The fast movement can cause the brain to bounce or twist, leading to chemical changes. While concussions are not usually life-threatening, it’s a good idea to take them seriously. The first way to do that is by educating yourself.
Symptoms of a concussion
Some symptoms are observed. A person with a concussion might:
- Not remember events before or after the hit or fall,
- Answer questions slowly,
- Appear dazed, clumsy, or “out of it,”
- Show behavioral, mood, or personality changes, and/or
- Lose consciousness.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Confusion or grogginess,
- Sensitivity to light or noise,
- Nausea or vomiting,
- Not feeling like themselves,
- Dizziness or blurry vision, and/or
- A headache or feeling of pressure.
Because it’s not always easy to tell right away how serious a concussion is, it’s a good idea to monitor the injury after it happens. While many symptoms appear immediately, some might not until hours or days later.
Steps for care
If a head injury occurred while playing a sport, a coach or trainer may do an initial sideline concussion test to see if you need immediate medical attention. Many sports leagues and/or schools might also have baseline concussion tests, which evaluate memory, thinking, and attention, at the beginning of the season. These tests are used to compare results if you have a fall or hit your head. All athletes who experience a head injury should see a doctor before they begin playing again.
A doctor can diagnose a concussion by asking about how the injury happened, hearing about your symptoms, and testing your memory and balance. Doctors on Amwell are here to support you 24/7 and can provide medical advice for concussions or suspected concussions. It’s important to know that there is a range when it comes to a concussion’s seriousness. While it's always good to check in with your doctor, if you did not lose consciousness and aren’t having memory concerns, you do not need to get a brain scan.
Treatment may include:
- Avoiding activities that involve concentration, and/or
- Medication to relieve pain.
Many people with concussions feel better after two weeks but recovery can take a month or longer. If your symptoms worsen at any time, you should call your doctor or go to your local emergency department.
How to prevent concussions
There are some general steps you can take to prevent concussions in yourself or someone you love.
- Wear a helmet.
- Create a safe sports culture. Click here for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for specific sports, such as cheerleading, football, lacrosse, and soccer.
- For young children, use car and booster seats that are age and weight appropriate and install them properly. Make sure you have gates near the stairs to prevent falls.
If you need care or medical advice, talk to a doctor from anywhere using Amwell.