What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that happens when the brain is shaken within the skull. While a concussion generally means no severe structural damage, and most people recover completely within a few weeks, sometimes symptoms resolve more slowly. Prompt, proper treatment can lessen the chances of developing persistent symptoms.
Concussion is also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that has no neuroimaging findings. The term mild does not diminish the impacts that concussion can have on your health and activities of daily living (ADLs).
If you have suffered any trauma to your head, or whiplash, and you experience symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help. This includes if you’ve been in a traumatic accident, been assaulted, fallen, or if you’ve been injured playing sports. Recent research investigating variables of concussion outcome have suggested that prompt assessment with a clinician with specific training in the management of concussion is one of the best ways to improve recovery times .
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The following symptoms can occur after a concussion .
Please note: Most people will not experience all symptoms - but if you are experiencing symptoms after a physical injury, visit your doctor.
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Sleep disturbance
- Vision changes
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Ringing in the ears
- Problems with smell/taste
- Difficulty remembering and focusing
- Slower information processing
- Trouble thinking clearly or finding your words
- Difficulty making decisions or plans
- Behavioural changes like depression, anxiety, irritability, aggression, or impulsivity
There is no formal test to officially diagnose a concussion. A registered doctor or nurse practitioner are the medical professionals qualified to assess your symptoms to determine if you have a concussion.
Please note: there are some exceptions to this in Quebec and Manitoba. In Quebec, nurse practitioners are not able to make a concussion diagnosis. In Manitoba, physician assistants are licensed for medical assessments .
You should see a doctor right away if you or someone you are caring for is experiencing the following symptoms after a traumatic event.
- Significant neck pain or tenderness immediately after the injury
- Double vision
- Seizure or convulsion
- Weakness or tingling/burning in arms and legs
- Severe or increasing headache
- Deteriorating conscious state
- Repeated vomiting
- Increase in restlessness, agitation or combative behaviour
If the person is experiencing these symptoms in extremes, call 911 and use emergency services.
For more information on treatment pathways after someone has sustained a concussion, see the full chart on the Concussion Awareness Training Tool. The difficulty with a concussion is that you may not recognize you have one right away. If you are experiencing symptoms of a concussion after an accident, instance of assault, or serious hit during sports, make an appointment to see a doctor.