There are 4 categories of signs and symptoms to look for when a concussion is suspected. They include physical, cognitive, behavioral, and sleep changes.
1. Physical changes could be loss of balance, nausea, vomiting, blurry or double vision, dizziness, lightheadedness, sensitivity to noise or light, poor coordination, ringing in the ears, fatigue, slurred speech, and headache.
2. Cognitive changes include difficulty concentrating and sustaining attention, forgetting recent events, confusion, repeating questions, feeling groggy, hazy or sluggish, feeling slowed down, answering questions slowly, and inability to follow directions.
3. Behavioral changes include irritability, sadness/depressed mood, nervousness/anxiety, personality changes, and low tolerance to frustration.
4. Sleep changes include drowsiness, sleeping more or less than usual, or difficulty falling asleep.
Loss of consciousness can occur with concussion, but it only occurs in <10% of all sports-related concussions. This makes it important to pay attention to all of the other signs and symptoms. Incurring a concussion and continuing to play is very dangerous and although rare, can result in death if a second impact to the head occurs.
The majority (80-90%) of concussion symptoms resolve in 7-10 days, although this will be longer in children and adolescents. Symptoms should lessen each day. If they do not resolve but rather get more intense, headaches get worse, or you begin vomiting you should go to the Emergency Department.
The most important thing you can do after you have sustained a concussion is rest, physically and cognitively. Activities that require sustained attention and environments with a lot of stimulus, whether visual or auditory, should be avoided within the first 24-48 hours.
For more information about concussions and how physical therapy might be able to help you if you have had one, visit http://www.moveforwardpt.com/symptomsconditionsdetail.aspx?cid=4f2ebb00-f1c0-4691-b2ab-742df8dffb99.