What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Jason L. West, MD
Surgery
The symptoms of a concussion include persistent headache, nausea and vomiting, balance issues. Jason West, MD in emergency medicine at Medical City Denton Hospital, explains when to seek care for these symptoms.
Christopher Giza, MD
Pediatrics
It's important to recognize the signs and the symptoms of concussion. Headache is the most common symptom. Over 90% of concussions involve a headache, but dizziness, nausea, vomiting, looking out of it, being confused or disoriented, uncoordinated, having memory loss and having wide fluctuations of emotions are other symptoms. Sometimes you see the athletes crying on the sideline even when their team is winning. Being unconscious or knocked unconscious even temporarily is a sign of concussion. If any of these symptoms are seen in an athlete after a big blow in a contact or collision sport or any sport, a concussion should be suspected and the athlete should be removed from play until properly evaluated.
 
This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.
 
The most important thing to know about signs and symptoms of concussions is that they may not materialize until several minutes, hours or days after the injury occurs. If you have experienced any of the following:
  1. Head to head contact
  2. Head to ground contact
  3. Head to body contact
  4. Non-head contact due to a sudden change in direction, like a whiplash
And you start to exhibit any of the following symptoms:
  • Loss of Consciousness -- This is the most obvious, and scariest, sign of a concussion. 
  • Confusion -- The most common symptom is temporary confusion. A confused, concussed individual probably won’t talk much. If the individual does talk, the words may be jumbled, rapid, or generally non-sensical and irrelevant.
  • Amnesia -- Amnesia is temporary memory loss that can be divided into two types:
    • Retrograde: Forgetting things that happened before the incident.
    • Anterograde: Inability to remember facts after the concussion.
  • Disorientation -- A concussion can affect your ability to know where you are, what day it is, and what you were doing at the time of the injury. 
  • Delayed Verbal/Motor Response -- Slow, slurred or incoherent speech as well as inability to move or walk normally can be associated with concussion.
  • Inability to Focus -- A concussion may be evident if you have trouble paying attention, focusing on the conversation or game situation. 
  • Headache -- When due to concussion, headaches are very similar to migraine and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensory sensitivity. 
  • Disequilibrium -- Experiencing a problem with balance, and feelings of dizziness.
  • Visual Disturbances - Your vision may become blurred, doubled or overly sensitive to light. 
  • Nausea/Vomiting -- May occur in the absence of headache. 
  • Emotional Lability (mood swings) -- When hits occur to the sides of the head, or temporal lobes, you may notice anger outbursts, inappropriate laughing, extreme sadness or overt stubbornness not typical of the individual.
  • Sleep Disruption -- Excessive drowsiness or inability to sleep are usually delayed symptoms of a concussion. 
….You should seek medical attention immediately! 
Symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light, confusion, different-sized pupils, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, slurred speech, slight pressure in the head, memory loss, seeing “stars,” fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of sadness. (This answer provided for NATA by the Southern Connecticut State University Athletic Training Education Program)
American Red Cross
Administration
Signs of a concussion include:
  • Confusion, which may last from moments to several minutes
  • Headache
  • Repeated questioning about what happened
  • Temporary memory loss, especially for periods immediately before and after the injury
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Speech problems (person is unable to answer questions or obey simple commands)
  • Blurred vision or light sensitivity
Dawn Marcus
Neurology
You’ve probably had a concussion if you had a head injury that caused you to be:
  • Knocked out
  • Lose memory before or after a head injury
  • Feel dazed or stunned
  • “Saw stars”
  • “Got the wind knocked out of you”
If you’ve had a concussion, be sure to see your doctor. After a concussion you may have a wide range of disturbing symptoms that can last for days to months:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
Remember, the person who has had the concussion may not be a good judge of whether or not he or she is impaired. So if you notice changes in your loved one after being hit on the head, be sure to talk to his or her doctor to provide information about what’s happening.

The symptoms of a concussion may not appear immediately following the head injury, but in other cases, they do. Some people may lose consciousness when they suffer a concussion, but a majority of people do not. More commonly, people with concussions suffer general confusion, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and a ringing in the ears.

Continue Learning about Head Injuries

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.