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How to Tell If a Person Has a Concussion

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that most often occurs when someone is hit in the head. Concussions can also occur due to falling, physical abuse, vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian collisions, and injuries from contact sports such as rugby and football. Though the effects of a concussion are usually temporary, a person with a suspected concussion should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Repeated concussions can cause serious damage to the brain, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).[1] Though it may seem like a scary situation, most people with concussions fully recover within a few days.[2]

Part One of Three:
Checking for Immediate Signs
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  1. 1
    Determine if the victim has lost consciousness. Not everyone who gets a concussion will lose consciousness, but some people do. This is the most obvious sign that someone has a concussion. If the person has blacked out after a blow to the head, seek emergency medical treatment.[3]
  2. 2
    Watch for slurred or unclear speech. Ask the person some basic questions such as, “What is your name?” and “Do you know where you are?” If their answers are delayed, slurred, don’t make sense, or are hard to understand, they may have a concussion.[4]
  3. 3
    Find out if the victim is confused or doesn’t remember what happened. If the person has a blank stare, seems confused, or doesn’t know where they are, it could be a sign of a brain injury. If they seem dazed, don’t remember what happened, or appear to have memory loss, they likely have a concussion.[5]
  4. 4
    Watch for nausea or vomiting. If someone vomits, especially repeatedly, after being hit in the head or involved in another type of accident, this usually indicates a concussion. If they haven’t vomited, ask them if they feel nauseated or have an upset stomach, which may also be a sign of a concussion.[6]
  5. 5
    Look for impaired balance or coordination. People with concussions often have problems with their motor skills, such as being unable to walk in a straight line or catch a ball. If the person is having trouble with these things or has a delayed reaction time, they likely have a concussion.[7]
  6. 6
    Ask the victim if they have a headache, blurred vision, or feel dizzy. A headache that lasts more than a few minutes is a common sign of a concussion. Blurred vision, “seeing stars,” and/or feelings of dizziness or fogginess may also indicate a concussion.[8]
  7. 7
    Watch the person carefully for 3-4 hours. If you suspect a concussion, the person should be carefully monitored for the next several hours. It’s not a good idea to leave them alone, in case they end up needing emergency medical treatment. If possible, arrange for someone to stay with the person for at least a few hours after the incident and monitor their behavior.[9]
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Part Two of Three:
Monitoring Them for Additional Symptoms
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  1. 1
    Look for symptoms over the next several days or weeks. While some concussion symptoms show up immediately, some don’t appear until days or weeks afterwards. Even if the person seemed fine after the incident, they may begin to show signs of a concussion later on.[10]
    • The victim may exhibit signs such as slurred speech, confusion, nausea or vomiting, impaired balance or coordination, dizziness, blurred vision, or headache.
    • These symptoms could indicate medical issues other than a concussion, so it’s important to have the person examined by a healthcare provider.
  2. 2
    Watch for changes in mood and behavior over the next month. Sudden changes in behavior or mood often indicate a concussion. If the person seems grouchy, irritable, angry, sad, or otherwise emotional, seemingly without a reason, they may have a concussion. If the person becomes violent, acts out, or loses interest in their favorite things or activities, this can also indicate a concussion.[11]
  3. 3
    Determine if they have sensitivity to light or sound. People that are suffering from concussions are often more sensitive to bright lights and loud noises. If these things make the person cringe or complain of pain, or if they have ringing in their ears, they may have a concussion.[12]
  4. 4
    Recognize changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Look for behavior that contradicts their usual patterns or habits. If the person has lost their appetite or is eating much more than normal, it could be a sign of a concussion. Similarly, if the person has trouble sleeping or is sleeping excessively, they may have a concussion.[13]
  5. 5
    Find out if the victim has problems with memory or concentration. Even if the person seems clear-headed after the incident, they may develop issues later on. If they seem unfocused, unable to concentrate, or have trouble remembering things that happened either before or after the incident, they likely have a concussion.[14]
  6. 6
    Watch for excessive crying in children. If the person that you suspect may have a concussion is a child, determine if they seem to be crying more than usual. Though most of the concussion symptoms are the same in children and adults, children may cry excessively because they are in pain, feeling off, or don’t know how to express what is wrong.[15]
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Part Three of Three:
Seeking Medical Treatment
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  1. 1
    Seek emergency medical care for seizures, difficulty breathing, or fluid leaking from the ears. If the victim doesn’t respond or wake up after losing consciousness, experiences worsening headaches, vomits repeatedly, has blood or fluid leaking from the ears and nose, has a seizure, difficulty breathing, or slurred speech, take them to the emergency room immediately. These symptoms could indicate a very serious brain injury.[16]
  2. 2
    Get a medical evaluation for anyone with a suspected concussion within 1-2 days. Even if emergency medical treatment isn’t required, all head injuries should be evaluated by a licensed healthcare professional. If you suspect someone has a concussion, take them to the doctor within 2 days of the incident.[17]
  3. 3
    Get immediate medical attention if the victim’s symptoms worsen. In general, the symptoms of a concussion decrease over time. If the opposite is happening and the person experiences worsening pain, such as headache, and/or increased fatigue, seek immediate medical attention. These signs could indicate a more serious injury.[18]
  4. 4
    Follow the prescribed treatment plant. Usually, bed rest is prescribed for people with concussions. This includes both physical and mental rest, meaning the person should avoid physical activity (like exercise) as well as strenuous mental activity (such as playing video games or doing crossword puzzles). Be sure to rest for as long as the doctor recommends, and always follow any other treatment plan as prescribed by your healthcare provider.[19]
  5. 5
    Avoid exercise and activity until cleared by a doctor. If the victim got a concussion while playing a sport, exercising, or doing another physical activity, remove the person from the game or activity. They should not resume the activity until evaluated by a doctor, especially if it is a contact sport in which they may get hit again.[20]
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Community Q&A

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  • Is it ok to take Ibuprofen if there's a possible concussion?
    Answered by Jonas DeMuro, M.D.
    • Ibuprofen, sold under the brand name Motrin, is an NSAID drug. As such, it effects platelet function, and can be associated with bleeding. As a concussion may have a small amount of cerebral hemorrhage, you should not take Ibuprofen (Motrin), as it potentiates the bleeding. Discuss this with your physician so he can give specific advice your your situation if analgesic medications are needed.
    Thanks! 20 6
  • How many hours after being hit on the head can someone relax and not worry?
    Answered by Sarah Gehrke, R.N.
    • The first few hours are the most critical, but be sure to watch for symptoms over several days. Some symptoms after a hit on the head may appear right away and others may not be noticed for days or even months later.
    Thanks! 3 1
  • Can a headache along with tiredness be a sign of a concussion?
    Answered by Jonas DeMuro, M.D.
    • The symptoms of headaches and tiredness after even a minor head trauma can be a sign of a concussion. If someone is experiencing this, he/she should be seen in an emergency room for a thorough exam and head imaging to decide treatment.
    Thanks! 9 9
  • Are intermittent headaches a symptom of a concussion?
    Answered by Sarah Gehrke, R.N.
    • Yes, it is possible. Post-concussion headaches can vary and may also feel like a tension headache or even a migraine. Sometimes the tension-type headache can be caused from a neck injury that happened at the same time of the head injury. If you have a concern, you should talk to a doctor -- especially if memory loss or confusion is also present.
    Thanks! 2 1
  • What should I do if the person has only some of the listed symptoms, but not all of them?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Take the person to a doctor to make sure that nothing is wrong. These types of injuries can be very serious, and it is better to be safe than sorry/regretful.
    Thanks! 31 4
  • How do you get a concussion?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • There are a lot of possible ways to get a concussion. A few ways that concussion might occur include: getting hit in the head hard with something like a shovel, or heavy piece of steel, falling over when skiing/cycling/running, etc., being punched, being hit by a car or in a car accident, falling off something at a height, knocking your head on an object as you fall, being hit or landed on in sports, and so forth.
    Thanks! 40 7
  • How do concussions happen?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • A concussion happens when a person is hit on the head with great force, causing their brain to crash against the inside of their skull. This can happen in various kinds of accidents, including car accidents, as well as sports like football.
    Thanks! 13 2
  • Will a person's pupils get bigger if a person has concussion?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No, the eyes just won't react to bright lights, as in, the pupils don't get smaller -- it's just that nothing happens when pupil is exposed to light.
    Thanks! 33 16
  • One of my friends got hit in the face with a backpack at school, and now he can't see colors or, if he sees them, they look very dark even if they are light colors. What does this mean?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It might be a detached retina. The color receptors are in the middle of the eye and B/W receptors are on the sides. Make sure he sees a doctor!
    Thanks! 6 1
  • How long should a bump on the head stay swollen?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It depends on what the bump is. You should have it evaluated by a doctor just to be safe. They will be able to tell you how long the bump might last, although I would expect it to be there for at least a week or two.
    Thanks! 3 0
Show more answers
  • Nose bleeding for a short time after hitting head. How dangerous?
  • Is it normal to be light headed, have headaches, and be worried/scared? Also, is it normal (if you have a concussion) to have your neck/back hurt?
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TipsEdit

  • Minor bumps may not be a concussion and the injured person may respond adequately and have no complaints. It is still a good measure to keep a close watch for emergency signs, especially vomiting, sluggish speech, or disorientation.
    0 Helpful?  0
  • Always monitor the victim for a long period after the injury to be sure they do not worsen. Allow them to rest, but awaken them every so often and ask them questions.
    0 Helpful?  0
  • The recovery time from a concussion may last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. This differs for each person and individual injury.
    0 Helpful?  0
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WarningsEdit

  • A serious head injury can result in a coma if the victim is not treated immediately.
    36 Helpful?  11
  • Severity of a head injury may be difficult to assess but if someone is knocked unconscious call emergency services. Brain hemorrhage should be ruled out and may not exhibit symptoms right away. A slow bleed could affect the person days after injury.
    2 Helpful?  0
  • Repeated injury to the brain can lead to brain swelling, long-term disabilities, or death. You are more likely to suffer repeated concussions if you do not allow the brain to heal after an initial concussion.
    1 Helpful?  0

Expert Review By:

SG
Registered Nurse

This version of How to Tell If a Person Has a Concussion was reviewed by Sarah Gehrke, R.N. on January 5, 2018.

22 votes - 90%
Co-authors: 58
Updated:
Views: 1,200,647

Reader Success Stories

  • MJ

    Michael Jaeger

    Feb 12

    "Very detailed, but kept my attention. Gave steps to not only recognize a concussion, but to seek treatment for it. Bravo."..." more
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