9 Textbook Signs of a Concussion

If you’ve had a hit to the head, be mindful of these symptoms.

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Given the intricate nature of the human body, it might surprise you that the brain is essentially floating in some cushioning fluid within your skull. Think of a ball of fresh mozzarella, floating in water inside a tub or jar: That’s your squishy brain inside your skull.

Usually, this setup works just fine. However, if you experience a sudden jolt or blow to the head, your brain might shake back and forth rapidly. This can cause chemical changes and even brain cell damage. This is known as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), more commonly called a concussion.

But let’s get one thing straight: A concussion may be called “mild,” but it’s completely serious. It’s only mild compared to the other types of TBIs, but it’s still a brain injury, and it can have long-term effects on brain function.

If you hit your head, you might feel some degree of headache, and it might not be a concussion. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms of a concussion, such as:

  • Headaches

  • Neck pain

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Clumsy, awkward movements

  • Irritability or sadness

  • And/or memory problems.

Symptoms may appear immediately after the injury, or days or weeks later. There’s no test for a concussion, so doctors will simply examine you for concussion symptoms. If your doctor believes you have a concussion, your prescription will be rest—and that includes a break from mental activities that require extreme concentration as well.

Sometimes, concussion symptoms can worsen and become severe. Slurred speech, repeated vomiting, inability to recognize people, asymmetrical pupil sizes, and losing consciousness are telltale signs of a concussion-gone-bad, and you should seek emergency medical attention ASAP.

The best solution is to prevent concussions and head injuries altogether. While some concussions are unavoidable, some can be prevented with good safety precautions and common sense. For example, always wear a helmet when riding a bike, be aware of tripping hazards when you walk, and use handrails on stairs.