A concussion is an injury that occurs as a result of an impact to the brain. Concussions can occur from a direct impact such as hitting your head during a fall, being struck by a falling object, or they can occur indirectly as a result of a whiplash-like injury that causes the head to snap forward and backward violently. Indirect impact injuries often go untreated until symptoms occur because most people don’t realize their brain can be injured without being hit directly on the head. Concussions can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can take days for symptoms to appear. Delayed treatment of severe concussions can result in slow internal bleeding, brain swelling, and death.
Concussions can cause many different symptoms which, in some cases, can be quite subtle. Symptoms may include:
Because many of these symptoms can be very subtle, it’s important to be evaluated after any type of injury that can cause a concussion, even seemingly mild events.
Diagnosis begins with a review of any symptoms and a careful retelling of the accident or event that caused the injury, as well as a physical exam with cognitive and neurological evaluations to assess reflexes, verbal and sensory responses and other signs. Diagnostic imaging like MRI, X-ray or CT scan also may be performed to look for signs of physical injury. For minor concussions, patients will need to have complete mental rest and be closely monitored for worsening symptoms. More severe concussion require hospitalization and in some cases surgery to repair damaged areas and relieve pressure inside the skull.