A concussion is a group of neurologic symptoms that occur due to forces on the brain. One of the major causes of concussions happens after a head or neck injury during athletic competition, especially in contact sports such as football.
In order to try to identify whether or not you could be experiencing concussion symptoms, be on the lookout for these most common acute symptoms:
- Amnesia: not remembering events that occurred around the time of or before the accident
- Dizziness and imbalance: inability to walk in a straight line; staggering or wobbly
- Confusion/vacant stare: also known as the “blank stare”; not knowing where they are, what they are doing, or what has been going on in the game
- Sensitivity to light or loud noise: covering or shading eyes from the light regardless of brightness; wanting to put on sunglasses when normally not needed; bright lights or loud noises making headache worse
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Inattention and slowed thinking: sometimes described as feeling “in a fog”; slow to respond to questions; not paying attention when being spoken to
- Slurred speech
- Inability to coordinate movements: clumsy; dropping things; loss or decrease in hand-eye coordination.
There are other symptoms that can occur later including depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance. If you or a teammate have experienced one or more of these symptoms after a head or neck injury, then the affected player should be removed from play. Alert the coach and/or trainer as soon as possible. Not all or even most concussion symptoms are apparent or felt immediately after the injury, so any symptoms that appear at a later time should also lead to removal from play for further evaluation as soon as symptoms start. Loss of consciousness is not a requirement for the diagnosis of concussion as less than 10% of concussion patients have had loss of consciousness.
That person should then undergo further evaluation by a medical professional to determine if the symptoms are part of a concussion or another problem before returning to play. Most concussion symptoms will improve in a few days to a few weeks with the appropriate management and rest, which will be determined by your medial professional.
Dr. Erin Manning is a neurologist at Hospital for Special Surgery. She specializes in the treatment of neuromuscular disorders, including neuropathy, myopathy, spine disorders, autoimmune diseases and sports neurology, including head injuries and concussions. Dr. Manning currently practices at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Manhattan campus and Stamford Outpatient Center.