What are the Signs of a Concussion?

A small bump to the head usually doesn’t require medical attention. But what should you do if you or a loved one experiences head trauma or a concussion? These injuries can seem minor at first but could result in chronic issues. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to determine if treatment is needed.

What Causes a Concussion?

Concussions are commonly caused when there is a sudden deceleration or acceleration of the head, such as violent shaking, a car crash, or an impact on a sports field. Any time trauma happens to the head or neck, there is a possibility of concussion depending on the severity of the impact.

The consistency of the brain is similar to gelatin. Within the skull, you have cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a cushion for the gelatin-like tissue, helping to protect your brain against everyday bumps and impact.

When the head is hit violently, it can cause the brain to move back and forth within the skull. If the impact is strong enough, it causes the brain to move forcefully against the inside walls of the skull bone. In severe cases, it can lead to bleeding in or around the brain.

If the brain starts bleeding, it could be a fatal injury. So, it is always important to seek medical attention if a concussion is suspected. The patient needs to be observed in the hours after impact to determine if emergency care is required. Don’t hesitate to visit our ER and urgent care clinic if you are unsure about the severity of the head injury.

Mild or Severe Concussion

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury that can have long-lasting effects without proper treatment. Usually, concussions are caused by violent shaking of the head or a sudden blow to the head. Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Trauma to the head
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurry vision
  • Seeing stars
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Brain fog feeling
  • Short-term amnesia about the traumatic event

Sometimes, a concussion can make a person lose consciousness. But most concussions don’t cause a loss of consciousness, so don’t assume the diagnosis without talking to a doctor.

In many cases, immediate symptoms are recognized. But sometimes a patient has delayed symptoms of a concussion, which might include:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes
  • Irritability
  • Noise and light sensitivity
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Change of smell and taste

Immediate First Aid for Severe Head Trauma

Not only is it essential to visit an emergency room for severe head trauma, but you should also consider first-aid treatments that should be used immediately:

  • Apply Pressure: If there is a wound on the head that won’t stop bleeding, then firm pressure should be applied using a clean cloth or sterile cause. In the case where you suspect a skull fracture, do not apply direct pressure on the wound.
  • Stabilization: As you are waiting for medical help to arrive, minimize movement as much as possible. The person should stay still and quiet, lying down with the shoulders and head slightly elevated. Avoid unnecessary movement and try not to move their neck. If the person is wearing a helmet, do not remove it before the emergency medical team arrives.
  • Watch for Symptoms: If you notice that the person stops breathing or has no circulation, then begin CPR and continue until emergency services arrive.

One common recommendation is that you should keep the person awake after a concussion. The truth is that sleep is ok after the person’s condition has been evaluated. For example, if the person’s pupils are normal size, they can walk without difficulty and carry on a conversation, then it is probably fine for them to sleep. The danger from sleeping is that family or doctors won’t recognize more serious signs of brain injury. So, if you have questions about the severity of the injury, then it is best to talk to a doctor before going to sleep.

Complications from a Concussion

The possible complications from a concussion vary depending on the severity of the concussion, as well as the patient’s previous history. For example, if someone has had repeated head injuries through sports activities or physical abuse, then the risk of complications increases.

Potential complications might include:

  • Headaches: Some patients experience headaches for a week or more after a brain injury.
  • Vertigo: A feeling of dizziness or spinning. This sensation can last for days, weeks, or even months after a head injury.
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome: If a patient has concussion symptoms that last for more than three months after injury, then it is known as post-concussion syndrome. This condition occurs in approximately 15 – 20% of patients.

One possible complication is if a person has repeated head trauma before the first concussion has resolved. In this situation, rapid brain swelling can occur, which could lead to a fatal outcome. When a head injury occurs, it is essential to protect the brain from another impact. For example, athletes should never return to the playing field until they are cleared by a doctor and have a full recovery.

Preventing Concussions

Regardless of your history with concussions, it is important to be proactive in preventing brain trauma. It is possible that repeated injuries could lead to serious complications in the future.

You can still enjoy your favorite activities while protecting yourself against injury. For example, wear protective sports gear and make sure you have a proper fit for all equipment. Any time there is a risk of head injury, it is smart to wear headgear, such as when motorcycling, snowboarding, football, hockey, and more. If you are in a moving vehicle, you can prevent head injury by wearing a seatbelt at all times.

Also, consider the safety of your home. Make sure the rooms are well-lit and avoid anything on the floor that could be a tripping hazard. Protect young children by installing window guards and using child gates to block stairways.

When to Go to the ER for Head Trauma

You should visit a doctor right away when head trauma is associated with certain symptoms, including:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Dazed appearance
  • Nausea and repeated vomiting
  • Dilated pupils or pupils are not the same sizes
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Severe bleeding from the face or head
  • Fluid or blood leaking from the ears or nose
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Breathing stops
  • Weakness in an arm or leg
  • Speech slurring
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Behavioral changes
  • Forgetfulness (asking the same questions repeatedly)

The above symptoms can occur in both adults and children. Since a child can’t communicate their symptoms or pain, it is important for parents or caretakers to watch for other symptoms after a head injury:

  • Refusing to eat
  • Persistent crying
  • The soft spot is bulging (in young infants)
  • Vomiting repeatedly

iCare ER and Urgent Care is Here to Help

When head trauma occurs, the best thing you can do is talk to a doctor right away if you suspect a concussion. Our medical clinic is unique because we provide both urgent care and emergency room services in the same location. We’ll evaluate your symptoms to decide the appropriate level of care for your condition.

Our team at iCare ER and Urgent Care has convenient offices in both Frisco and Fort Worth. Walk-ins are welcome, or you can get a jump start by using our online sign-in system. If it is an emergency then please come to the ER immediately or call 911. If you have questions about available services, then call our office: (214) 407-8668.

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