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Concussion Signs and Symptoms

Recognize the signs and symptoms of brain injuries

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Updated September 04, 2013

The signs of a serious brain injury, such as a concussion or epidural hematoma, don't always appear immediately. Sometimes the warning signs of a head injury don't show up for several hours or even days later. Even a minor blow to the head can result in a serious head injury that, if left untreated, can result is life-threatening complications.

Brain Injury Warning Signs and Symptoms

The following signs and symptoms provide a warning that your head injury requires immediate medical attention. If you experience one or more of the following symptoms after sustaining a blow to the head, however minor it may seem, you should seek immediate medical attention for a complete evaluation.
  • Difficulty remembering recent events or personal information
  • Severe headache, particularly if it comes on quickly and in a specific location
  • Severe stiffness in neck
  • Mental confusion or strange behavior
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, poor balance, or unsteady gait
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Extreme drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Unequal pupil sizes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent ringing in the ears
  • Slurred speech
  • Visual problems, such as seeing stars or blurred vision
  • Bleeding or clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness

Sports Concussion

Concussions are traumatic head injuries that occur from both mild and severe blows to the head. Signs of a mild concussion -- confusion, disorientation and memory loss -- may disappear within minutes or may not be reported by the athlete. If an athlete continues playing under such conditions, they risk serious, long-term effects, particularly if they suffer another head injury before healed. Ignoring concussion symptoms increases the risk of suffering another, more serious, head injury, neurological impairment, depression or cognitive deficits.

Epidural Hematoma

An epidural hematoma is bleeding between the skull and the brain. This injury may occur when an impact results in a laceration of a blood vessel in the head which then forms a blood clot between the skull and the brain's protective covering (the dura). This clot slowly grows and puts pressure on the brain that, if not treated promptly, can result in death.

The seriousness of an epidural hematoma became clear when actress Natasha Richardson died from what appeared to be a mild head injury during a skiing accident.

Richardson's tragic death brought attention to a previously unknown condition referred to as "talk and die" syndrome in which a head injury victim appears fine at first, but hours or days later develops a headache and other symptoms of an epidural hematoma.

Brain Injury First Aid

If you suspect a brain injury but don't see any initial signs or symptoms listed above, follow the head injury first aid treatment guidelines.

More About: Head Injury and Sports Concussion

Sources

Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport: the 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2008. http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/43/Suppl_1/i76 <

Heegaard WG, Biros MH. Head. In: Marx J. Rosens Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2006: chap. 38.

University of Pittsburgh, Brain Trauma Research. http://www.neurosurgery.pitt.edu/research/trauma.html

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