how to know if you have a concussion
Sports / Orthopedic

How to Know If You Have a Concussion from a Sports Injury

May 22 2024

If you’re into sports, whether you’re a dedicated athlete or just someone who enjoys being active, it’s vital to know about the potential injuries that can happen. One important thing to understand is how to know if you have a concussion, especially if it is from a sports injury. Knowing the signs, symptoms and what to do can make a big difference in your health and recovery.

What is a concussion?

Before we get into spotting the signs, let’s explain what a sports-related concussion is. A sports-related concussion is a type of injury that happens when you or your child takes a hit to the head or has a hard impact on your body while playing sports. This can cause your brain to move suddenly inside your head, leading to changes in how your brain functions, shared Laura E. Cook, MD, an orthopedics and sports medicine expert in our Greenville market.

Common causes of concussions

Concussions can occur in various scenarios, including:

  • Contact sports: Athletes who participate in contact sports like football, soccer or boxing are at a higher risk of sustaining a concussion due to collisions and tackles.
  • Motor vehicle accidents: In the world of racing and motorsports, sudden crashes or impacts can cause an injury to the brain and head.
  • Falls: If you fall while playing sports and hit your head on something hard, like the ground or a piece of equipment, you could get a sports-related concussion.

Now, let’s explore the signs and symptoms to help you determine if you might have a concussion.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that ranges from a mild traumatic brain injury to a moderate or even severe one. Determining the severity depends largely on how your brain cells are affected from the injury and the symptoms you experience.

What are the red flags of a concussion?

Signs your concussion is likely mild include:

  • Headache: One of the most common symptoms of a concussion is a headache. If you’ve experienced a blow to the head and notice a throbbing or constant headache, it could be a red flag.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling nauseous or actually vomiting after a head injury is another sign to watch for. It’s essential to take this symptom seriously and seek medical attention.
  • Fatigue: Concussions often lead to increased fatigue or a feeling of being constantly tired. You might find that you need more rest than usual.
  • Dizziness and balance issues: Experiencing dizziness, a lack of balance or feeling unsteady on your feet can be a symptom of a concussion. Take note if you have trouble maintaining your equilibrium.
  • Speech problems or confusion: Feeling disoriented, confused or having trouble concentrating is a telltale sign of a concussion. You may find it challenging to focus on tasks or conversations, or have trouble finding the right words.
  • Sensitivity to light and noise: Many individuals with concussions become sensitive to light and noise. If you find yourself needing to shield your eyes from bright lights or cover your ears due to noise discomfort, it could be a sign.
  • Mood changes: Concussions can also affect your mood. You may feel irritable, anxious or even sad without an apparent reason.
  • Memory loss: Concussions can often lead to issues with memory and concentration, including temporary memory loss. You may have difficulty remembering the events leading up to the injury or even moments after the impact.

Red flags that may indicate a more severe head injury are often more intense:

  • Loss of consciousness: While not all concussions will cause you to lose consciousness, it’s a significant indicator. Blacking out briefly could mean your concussion isn’t as severe, but being unconscious for several minutes or longer may be a sign of a more serious injury. Regardless, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Persistent headache: A headache that won’t go away or worsens may be a sign of a more moderate concussion.
  • Seizures: While less common, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that these can occur either immediately after the injury or much later.
  • Slurred speech: Difficulty speaking clearly or slurred speech is another symptom to watch out for. If you notice changes in your ability to communicate, it may be a sign of a concussion.
  • Repeated vomiting: Vomiting or nausea that is ongoing is a sign of a more serious injury.
  • Severe confusion or agitation: Confusion following a brain injury can cause you to be more easily upset.
  • Weakness or numbness in limbs: This can be a sign that the part of the brain controlling complex body movements is impaired.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these red flags, seek immediate medical attention.

Do you have questions about how to know if you have a concussion?

Dr. Cook has you covered.

How do I check myself for a concussion?

Checking yourself for a concussion can be challenging, as some symptoms may not be immediately obvious. If you’ve experienced a head injury or suspect a concussion, it’s best to seek medical attention. Avoid self-diagnosis and rely on a health care professional’s expertise.

Is it safe to sleep with a concussion?

It is generally safe to sleep with a concussion. Rest is crucial for recovery. However, it’s recommended to have someone check on you periodically or set alarms to ensure you remain responsive. If your symptoms worsen during sleep or you have a severe headache, seek immediate medical help.

How long does a concussion last?

The duration of a concussion varies from person to person. While some individuals recover within a few days, others may experience symptoms for weeks or even months, often referred to as post-concussive syndrome. It’s essential to follow your health care provider‘s guidance for a safe return to play and other regular activities.

Seeking medical attention

If you suspect you have a concussion or experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. A health care professional will assess your condition, potentially order diagnostic tests such as CT scans and provide guidance on managing your injury.

Post-concussion care

Recovering from a sports-related concussion often involves rest. Avoid intense sports activities and give your brain the time it needs to heal. You will likely have to take a concussion assessment to help determine the severity of your injury and when you can return to sports.

Taking care of yourself with concussions

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion is crucial for your well-being as an athlete. Whether you’re into contact sports, experience a fall while playing or are involved in motorsports, understanding how to know when you have a concussion is vital.

Remember, concussions are a type of brain injury and should never be taken lightly. If you think you might have one or see someone showing signs, don’t wait – get medical help to make sure you get the right care. By staying informed and taking the necessary precautions, you can protect your brain and support a safe recovery.

Learn more about concussions as well as the orthopedic and sports medicine services we provide at Bon Secours.

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