Ready for a staggering statistic? It’s estimated that each year 2.8 million people sustain some type of traumatic brain injury in the United States, according to a study conducted between 2007 and 2013. Many of these types of injuries are severe and can have long-lasting mental or physical effects even after they’ve healed.
A concussion may seem somewhat commonplace, but it can be far more traumatic if you don’t take care of it afterwards. Unfortunately, even those who have suffered concussions don’t always know the extent of the damage. We’ve compiled 12 symptoms of concussions that you should be wary of if you or someone you know has hit their head.
Sudden Head Blow
Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head. Now, because our brains are basically the consistency of gelatin, it means that anything that violently slams them into our skulls can damage them, either slightly or severely. Our brains are cushioned from everyday jolts and bumps by the cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. Sometimes this fluid protects the brain from a concussion, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Concussions are a fairly common occurrence in some lines of work, particularly in the world of sports. Full contact sports like football, mixed martial arts, boxing and hockey are some examples of sports careers that result in players receiving at least one concussion in their careers. Most players will recover fairly quickly from such injuries, however.
Though many concussions are severe enough to cause us to lose consciousness, some do not. It is this feature of concussions that makes them particularly dangerous because it is possible that someone may not realize they’ve had one. Most of the time, damage from a concussion will heal naturally, but precautions must still be taken.
Concussions may be the most apparent brain injury one can think of, but the symptoms can sometimes be so subtle that they go unnoticed. In other words, some symptoms are so common as to appear to not be symptoms at all, and they may not arise initially following the injury itself. Many of them can last for days, weeks, or even longer if not addressed right away.
It will come as no surprise that one of the first symptoms of a sudden and violent blow to the head is often a persistent headache. It can be as simple as a tension headache, or something much more similar to a migraine. Regardless of the severity, these headaches should lessen over time and can be treated with medication. If they don’t clear up, or if they worsen over time, then medical help should be sought out.
Many times, the direct result of a concussion will be that the person is knocked unconscious. This is to be expected, considering that their very mushy brain has just been slammed against the inside of the skull. One does not necessarily lose consciousness after a concussion, but if it does occur it is usually only temporary.
Fatigue is also a common sign of a concussion, which is ironic because one of the worse things you can do for a person with a concussion is to let them fall asleep right away. Also, despite the fact that it’s a common symptom, any situation in which a person with a traumatic head injury can’t seem to stay awake could be a sign of serious damage.
Even if a person isn’t feeling particularly sleepy as a result of their concussion, they might certainly feel dizzy. They might also experience a ringing sound in their ears or “see stars.” If a person experiences any of these symptoms, have them sit down for a bit to gather their wits about them. If their dizziness persists into something worse, it might mean they need to see a doctor.
Some concussion victims find that they are very confused afterward. They may feel as if they are in a fog or unable to focus. This is especially dangerous when one sustains a concussion with no one else around. If you are alone and confused after hitting your head, you may not, but should, have the presence of mind to avoid sleeping or even see a doctor.
Many who sustain a concussion don’t initially remember what happened immediately prior to the injury. Frankly, when your brain bumps around in your head, it’s expected that your memory might be a little hazy. Long-term symptoms of a more serious concussion can involve persistent amnesia and memory gaps, as well as problems with concentration.
Nausea and Vomiting
It may seem unusual but it’s actually perfectly normal for people with concussions to feel nauseous at the onset of the injury. This feeling may persist as well and make the person increasingly sick to the point of them having to vomit. These symptoms may be signs of underlying issues rather than just the result of the dizzying, perception-altering effects of the concussion.
Slurred and Delayed
There are a number of more serious symptoms that come along with more severe concussions as well. One of them, slurred speech, is only really noticeable when the person is conscious and with someone who picks up on the sign. If the person is slurring or seems delayed in their responses when questioned, it can be indicative of unexpected damage from the concussion.
Another fairly common symptom of a concussion is that the victim may seem particularly sensitive to bright lights and loud noises. Light tracking and a test of pupil dilation can determine the extent of this light sensitivity. If they are feeling oversensitive, it’s best to lower the lights or allow the victim to rest in the dark, but not to let them fall sleep directly following the accident.
Odd Tastes and Smells
In addition to their sense of sight and hearing, those with more severe concussions might notice short-term or in some cases, even long-term changes to the way they taste or smell certain things. They might even notice strange tastes in their mouth or smells in the air that no one else senses. These are not the worst symptoms, however.
Seizures or Convulsions
All of these pale in comparison to some of the more troubling physical and mental symptoms of a concussion. Even a simple concussion can trigger seizures or convulsions in a victim. Whether these seizures only happen once, or if they persist over time, it is prudent for anyone with a traumatic head injury to investigate them with the help of their doctor.
A person who suffers a serious concussion may find that they experience a certain amount of irritability in the short term. This irritability can be a portent of other, more serious personality changes to come, ranging from further malaise and short-temper to those as serious as full-on depression. In times like these, medication might have to be introduced to regulate these psychological symptoms.
Prone to Concussions
Concussions are fairly common in younger children like infants and toddlers, who spend much of their time walking around like drunken sailors and not watching where they’re going. They are also pretty common in older kids, who either don’t wear protective helmets when they ride a bicycle or end up roughhousing a little too much. Their symptoms are slightly different.
Children with Symptoms
Despite their obvious penchant for it, concussions can be difficult to recognize in young children. Unlike adults, infants and toddlers can’t really describe how they feel. Therefore it’s important to watch for signs. Loss of balance, listlessness, crankiness, excessive crying, lack of interest in their favorite toys, and changes in their sleep patterns.
Even if it doesn’t seem like the victim of a concussion needs to see a doctor or if they have made it clear they don’t wish to, it’s important to at least touch base within one or two days with a physician just in case. This is especially true for children, including those who might not exhibit symptoms. They may ultimately be fine, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
If a concussion is not addressed right away, this type of injury could cause bleeding in and around the brain, which can often be fatal. It can also lead to serious long-term physiological and physical effects. The best way to help someone with a concussion, including yourself, is to monitor them and make sure that if symptoms persist, you seek medical attention.