How do I know if I have a Concussion and What do I about it?

How hard of an impact is needed to cause a concussion?
The force of the impact matters very little as to whether it causes a concussion or not, and you do not have to lose consciousness to be diagnosed with a concussion. A small bump on the head is just as capable of causing a concussion as is a football player being drilled in the head by an opponent. What is more important are the signs and symptoms that are present after the injury.

What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?
Signs and symptoms can be present immediately following an injury or may not appear for a few days. It is important to be aware of the range of signs and symptoms that can be present after a concussion.

The CDC breaks concussion signs and symptoms into 4 categories
– Difficulty thinking clearly
– Feeling slowed down
– Difficulty concentrating
– Difficulty remembering new information
– Headache
– Fuzzy or blurry vision
– Nausea
– Dizziness
– Sensitivity to noise or light
– Balance problems
– Feeling tired, having no energy
– Irritability
– Sadness
– More emotional
– Nervousness or anxiety
– Sleeping more than usual
– Sleeping less than usual
– Trouble falling asleep

What do I do if I am experiencing these symptoms?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should seek medical attention. If you are experiencing more serious symptoms like: seizures, repeated vomiting, slurred speech, a headache that continues to get worse, or loss of consciousness then you need to call 9-1-1 or immediately go to an emergency department.

What should I expect from the healthcare professional?
Your initial healthcare provider should assess if there is a more serious brain injury that has occurred. If not, then you should be referred to a treatment team that specializes in concussion care. Concussions can impact a variety of body functions so a multi-disciplinary approach provides the best treatment. A multi-disciplinary team can include any, but is not limited to the following: physical medicine & rehabilitation physician, neurologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, optometrist, ophthalmologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These healthcare providers should be capable of evaluating your signs and symptoms as they relate to their field of specialty and determining the best treatment approach.

How long does it take to recover?
It is impossible to predict the length of time that is needed for recovery. It is important that you pay attention to your signs and symptoms and work on pacing strategies with your healthcare providers. Unlike some injuries, when you have had a concussion you should not push through your symptoms. This may only increase your recovery time.

When should I return to work, school or sports?
Returning to work and school should be a decision that is made by you and your healthcare providers. Your healthcare providers can help you with the appropriate accommodations for work and school; if these accommodations are made, it is very likely that you can return prior to being completely symptom free.

Return to sports competition should not be done until you are symptom free. Many states have legislation that guides return to play after concussion. It is important that return to play protocols and testing be performed by healthcare professionals before you return to competition.

Helpful Links:
CDC HEADS UP Concussion Program Click here.

UHSAA Sports Concussion Management Policy Click here.


This blog post was written by Ryan Pelo, DPT. Ryan works for University of Utah Health and is part of the traumatic brain injury team at Sugarhouse Rehabiliation Center. To schedule an appointment with Ryan and his team call 801-581-2221. For more information about the services they provide click here.