The first step to treating a concussion: knowing you have one

Physical injuries are usually easy to spot and paired with a clear treatment protocol. If you’ve ever broken your arm, you know the routine: there is an impact, your arm feels terrible, you get an X-ray and then end up in a multicolored cast.

Concussions, however, have a plethora of symptoms that change with factors such as age, gender, and how hard you hit your head. Although concussions have been called the “invisible injury” they are far from inconsequential.

When there is trauma to the head, the force throws the brain against the interior of your skull. This alters the chemical and electrical balance to cell communication and function, so it’s no surprise that concussions produce physical, emotional and/or behavioral responses.

Being vigilant for yourself and those around you can drastically affect recovery. Signs and symptoms can vary, but for the most part they can be divided into four categories: physical, emotional, memory/thinking, and sleep.

  • Headaches may be the most widely known manifestation of a concussion. The intensity and frequency varies with the severity of the concussion, but consistent headaches is a big red flag
  • Sensitivity to light and noise can also be impacted with concussion . What was previously an acceptable sound or brightness is now painful or unbearable — usually immediately
  • Nausea or vomiting – can be a result pushing this new tolerance level too far
  • Getting fatigued easily and having low energy is another clear indication
  • Dizziness, balance problems, and blurry vision are additional signs that something may be wrong

Emotional symptoms

  • Frequently irritated or easily upset
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Memory/thinking
  • Decreased short-term memory
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Feeling like your head has been clouded in a “fog”
  • Having to do mental activities at a slower pace

Sleep related symptoms

  • Sleeping more or less than usual or being woken up by headaches
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Easily worn out — change in stamina

Concussion in young children

It’s important to remember that it is extremely difficult for young children to communicate how they feel. If you have a young child who may have suffered an impact, make sure to watch for these symptoms that are tougher to catch:

  • Easily irritable or cranky
  • Have changes in sleep patterns
  • Have a hard time eating or nursing
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy
  • Noticeable change in balance

Having a concussion can affect every aspect of your life. If anyone you know plays contact sports or works in an environment where a head injury is likely to happen, taking a baseline and post-injury test is a smart way to quickly gauge if something is wrong. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or others, visit your doctor as quickly as possible. Identifying your concussion sooner rather than later makes an immense difference in your road to recovery.

Concerned about your brain health?  Check now!