Concussion signs and symptoms

Steven M. Erickson, MD, FACP, is a sports and internal medicine physician and medical director of the Banner Concussion Center. His office can be reached at (602) 839-7285. Visit Banner Concussion Center for more information.

Question: What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Answer: Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that can be caused by virtually any trauma to the head or body that results in disruption of the brain’s normal neurologic function. Due to the complexity of the brain, every concussion is different and presents a unique set of symptoms.

The symptoms of concussion vary based on the specific part of the brain that sustained injury. Though no two concussions are alike, some of the most common symptoms include: headache; dizziness; confusion; nausea and/or vomiting; numbness or tingling; balance difficulties; changes in vision such as blurred vision or double vision; drowsiness; and more.

Despite popular belief, the vast majority of individuals who suffer a concussion never lose consciousness, nor is loss of consciousness a factor in determining the severity of a concussion.

Similar to how concussion affects everyone differently, the duration of symptoms varies from person to person. Generally speaking, college athletes and mature adults recover from a concussion in an average of seven to 10 days. In contrast, children and adolescents take longer to recover with the average recovery period for high school athletes being 14 to 21 days. Interestingly, while children take longer to recover, they are more likely to make a complete recovery and return to their pre-concussed state.

Sometimes seemingly harmless head injuries can result in concussion. It is important to be aware of the dangers of concussion, recognize the signs and symptoms, and seek immediate medical attention should injury occur.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, particularly the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports Initiative, is a tremendous resource offering an abundance of literature about sports and non-sports related concussion.

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