8 Signs of a Concussion You Need To Know

If you experience these and they’re getting worse, head to your doc immediately. – By Jessica Migala

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Concussions are nothing to mess around with. By definition, they’re a type of traumatic brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that when the brain bounces around in your skull after a hit on the head, it can damage brain cells and change the brain chemically.”We take hits to the head very seriously, but everyone who suffers one does not need to go to the ER,” says Elizabeth M. Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP, a board-certified neuropsychologist and associate director of the Sports Concussion Program at NorthShore University HealthSystem. First, if you suspect you have a concussion, contact your doctor’s office; they’ll provide the best direction on what to do.That said, “there’s no good way to say that someone definitely has a concussion. We don’t have a screening or blood test right now, though there is some great research happening to develop one,” notes Pieroth. Doctors will consider two things: 1) Was there something that caused the injury, such as a skiing accident, a car accident, or a bike accident? and 2) Do you have symptoms that suggest a concussion and not another injury? Here are eight to look for.

one

You feel “off.”

Maybe things seem cloudy or you’re just out of it. “I call this the Sudafed feeling,” says Pieroth. While it probably hurt when you hit your head (most blows do, after all), that’s not enough to diagnose a concussion. You must also experience changes in your mental status, per the definition from the CDC.

two

Other people notice something isn’t right.

Remember, the hallmark of a concussion is neurological symptoms. And that might show up in the way you move or interact with someone. You might get up from a chair and veer off balance, for instance. Or slur your speech as you start talking. Or your coordination could be totally messed up. It’s those things—which family and friends can plainly point out—that indicate you need to get checked out, stat.

three

You’re there, but no one’s home.
It might seem like you’re really out of it, says Pieroth. “I tell my patients to watch out for ‘concussion face,'” she says. Here’s what it looks like: You’re giving a blank stare and you look dazed and confused.
four
Your personality is different.

Let’s say you normally carry on long conversations with your spouse, get into (friendly!) debates, and talk about the news. Now it appears that your brain is moving at half speed. It takes longer to process info, there’s a delay when you try to answer questions, you have trouble recognising people, and you’re not as sharp. Maybe you’re even acting abnormally silly or agitated.

“These symptoms show up because people with concussions are slow to think. That’s a hallmark sign,” says Pieroth.

five

You’re vomiting—a lot.
This goes way beyond nausea. In fact, it’s normal to feel nauseated after you get hit on the head because a blow can jostle your inner ear and shift your sense of balance. Or maybe the injury made you emotional and you get an upset stomach, which in turn makes you feel pukey. The nausea isn’t enough to diagnose a concussion, but your doc will want to evaluate you for one if you’re repeatedly vomiting.
six
You got knocked out.

Any time you get hit on the head and lose consciousness, you need to go to the hospital, say Pieroth. But make sure you ask someone around you what happened. “Many times the person themselves won’t know if they got knocked out or not,” she says. It’s also possible to think you were unconscious when you were actually awake and responsive (talking and moving around) the whole time, which is a type of amnesia. However, if you were alone when you were injured, it can be hard to know definitively, so it’s best to see a doctor to be safe.

sev

Your symptoms happen right away.

There’s a myth that you can develop a concussion days or weeks after the incident, but Pieroth says this isn’t true. If symptoms are delayed, there may be something else going on, she says. (Though it can be easy to miss some of the signs and not pick up on a concussion until later, especially if you “look” fine, points out the CDC.)

Bottom line: You don’t want to be inappropriately treated for a concussion. Work with your doctor to see what else could be going on. It could be another serious injury-related condition like a neck injury or a blood clot in or around the brain called a hematoma. Get the help you need and you’ll soon be on the path to being well again.

eight

And they’re getting worse.
While a headache, mild confusion, or irritability might not signal a concussion, you should pay attention if those symptoms are getting more severe. “Usually with rest, symptoms will either stay the same or start to get a bit better,” says Pieroth. “But if you’re getting more fatigued, harder to arouse, or your headache has become severe, go to the ER,” she says. It might be a concussion, or it might be a more serious neck injury. Either way, doctors will want to see you stat.

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