(See also Sports-Related Concussion Sports-Related Concussion A concussion is a temporary change in brain function after a head injury without any signs of brain damage on imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)... read more and Overview of Head Injuries Overview of Head Injuries Head injuries that involve the brain are particularly concerning. Common causes of head injuries include falls, motor vehicle crashes, assaults, and mishaps during sports and recreational activities... read more .)
In concussion, no brain damage can be detected on imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Yet brain cells are temporarily damaged or dysfunctional. The person has temporary symptoms of brain dysfunction.
Symptoms of a concussion include one or more of the following:
Temporary confusion: Appearing dazed or stunned and/or answers slowly
Memory loss: Being unable to recall events just before the injury or just afterward
Sensitivity to light
Dizziness, clumsy movements, and problems with balance
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of smell or taste
Consciousness may be lost for a brief time, rarely for more than 15 minutes. Some people may not realize they have had a concussion.
Postconcussion syndrome refers to certain symptoms that sometimes occur for up to a few weeks after a concussion. These symptoms include one or more of the following:
Problems with short-term memory
Sensitivity to light or noise
Personality changes, such as irritability or mood swings
Postconcussion syndrome symptoms are common during the week after concussion and commonly resolve during the second week. However, sometimes, symptoms persist for months or, rarely, years. People who have had a concussion also seem to be more susceptible to another one, particularly if the new injury occurs before symptoms from the previous concussion have completely gone away.
To diagnose a concussion, doctors need to make sure brain structures are not damaged. The use of CT, MRI, or both may be needed. If there is no structural brain damage, only the symptoms need be treated.
For concussion, acetaminophen is given for pain. Aspirin or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Pain relievers (analgesics) are the main drugs used to treat pain. Doctors choose a pain reliever based on the type and duration of pain and on the drug's likely benefits and risks. Most pain... read more ) should not be taken because they interfere with blood clotting and may contribute to bleeding from damaged blood vessels. Rest of both the body and the brain is the best treatment for a concussion.
Treatment for postconcussion syndrome is based on the severity of the symptoms. Rest and close observation are important. If symptoms worsen, people who have had a concussion should be taken to the doctor or hospital for evaluation. Athletes who have had concussions should return to play gradually, after specific steps in their rehabilitation.
People who experience emotional difficulties may need psychotherapy.
People should not return to contact sports after a concussion until all ill effects have resolved and medical evaluation has been completed.
Repeated concussions may increase a person’s risk of dementia Dementia Dementia is a slow, progressive decline in mental function including memory, thinking, judgment, and the ability to learn. Typically, symptoms include memory loss, problems using language and... read more , Parkinson disease Parkinson Disease (PD) Parkinson disease is a slowly progressive degenerative disorder of specific areas of the brain. It is characterized by tremor when muscles are at rest (resting tremor), increased muscle tone... read more , and depression Depression Depression is a feeling of sadness and/or a decreased interest or pleasure in activities that becomes a disorder when it is intense enough to interfere with functioning. It may follow a recent... read more in later life.
The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
Brain Injury Association of America: Information regarding prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of brain injuries in children and adults