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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild brain injury. It is usually caused by a bump or blow to the head from a fall, a motor vehicle crash, or a sports injury. Being shaken forcefully may also cause a concussion.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms may happen right away, or they may develop days after the concussion:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or blurry vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A change in mood, such as restlessness or irritability
  • Trouble thinking, remembering things, or concentrating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Drowsiness or decreased energy
  • Changes in your normal sleeping pattern

How is a concussion diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell your provider when and how you were injured. You may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after your injury. Healthcare providers will check how your pupils react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • CT or MRI pictures may be taken of your head. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a concussion managed?

Usually no treatment is needed for a mild concussion. Concussion symptoms usually go away within 10 days, but they may last longer. The following may be recommended to manage your symptoms:

  • Rest from physical and mental activities as directed. Mental activities are those that require thinking, concentration, and attention. You will need to rest until your symptoms are gone. Rest will allow you to recover from your concussion. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work and other daily activities.
  • Have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours after your injury. Your healthcare provider should be contacted if your symptoms get worse, or you develop new symptoms.
  • Do not participate in sports and physical activities until your healthcare provider says it is okay. These can make your symptoms worse or lead to another concussion. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay for you to return to sports or physical activities. Ask for more information about sports concussions.
  • Do not use heavy machinery or drive for 24 hours after your injury, or as directed. This can be dangerous and cause a serious accident. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is safe for you to return to these activities.
  • Pain medicine may help relieve headache pain. Do not use NSAIDs or aspirin. These can increase your risk for bleeding. Your provider may recommend acetaminophen. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I help prevent another concussion?

  • Wear protective sports equipment that fits properly. Helmets help decrease your risk for a serious brain injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can lower your risk for a concussion if you play sports.
  • Wear your seatbelt every time you travel. This helps lower your risk for a head injury if you are in a car accident.

Further information

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone call if:

  • You cannot be woken.
  • You have a seizure, increasing confusion, or a change in personality.
  • Your speech becomes slurred.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have sudden or new vision problems.
  • One of your pupils is bigger than the other.
  • You have a severe headache that does not go away.
  • You have arm or leg weakness, numbness, or new problems with coordination.
  • You have blood or clear fluid coming out of the ears or nose.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You feel more sleepy than usual.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • Your symptoms last longer than 6 weeks.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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