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How do I know if it's a concussion?


A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or the body that causes the brain to move rapidly in the skull. The sudden movement of the brain in the skull stretches and damages the brain cells, creating chemical changes in the brain. To learn more about what a concussion is, watch this video. 

But how can you really know that you have a concussion after an injury?

According to the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, below are some things to look for following the injury:     

  1. One or more clinical signsloss of consciousness (even if it’s brief), altered mental status, complete or partial amnesia, acute neurological signs such as incoordination, seizure, or tonic posturing (when the arms are held out in a fixed or rigid position) 

  1. At least two new or worsening acute symptoms: altered mental status, cognitive difficulties, physical symptoms (headache, nausea, dizziness, imbalance, vision problems, or sensitivity to light/noise), or uncharacteristic emotional responses 

  1. At least one clinical or laboratory finding: such as impaired cognitive, balance, or ocular motor performance, elevated blood biomarkers, or symptom provocation with vestibular-oculomotor challenges 

  1. Neuroimaging (i.e., an MRI or a CT scan) results: reflecting unambiguous trauma-related intracranial abnormalities 

It may not always be easy to determine if a concussion has been sustained – the clinical presentation may not be clear, you may not have all of the information, or there may be prominent confounding factors. In these cases, the term “suspected” concussion should be used. This means that a concussion can be considered to have occurred and so should be treated as such.