What to Do When You Have a Concussion

From car accidents and sports injuries to severe falls and traumatic jolts to the head, a concussion can happen at any time. As an invisible injury, it can be scary and difficult to recognize. When you receive this type of severe head injury, it disrupts how your brain works and can even result in a loss of consciousness.

Often, immediate treatment is required, which is why it is important to recognize concussion symptoms and know when to visit your nearest emergency room.

What Is a Concussion and What Are the Causes?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that disrupts how your brain functions and affects your mental stamina. Concussion symptoms are temporary but can cause concentration problems, loss of memory, balance, and coordination, and cause you to complete everyday tasks slower.

You can compare your brain to the consistency of gelatin. It is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid inside your skull, which protects your brain from everyday bumps.

Concussions are usually caused by a forceful jolt or blow to the head or violent shaking of your head and upper body; this can result in your brain sliding back and forth against the inner walls of your skull. Falls, car accidents, and contact sport injuries are among the most common causes of a concussion. While these head injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, most do not.

Risk factors of a concussion may include:

  • Participating in a high-risk, contact sport like hockey, football, rugby, boxing, or soccer
  • Falling, especially in young children and elderly
  • Being involved in a bicycle or pedestrian accident
  • Being a victim of physical abuse
  • Being involved in a car crash or collision
  • Being a soldier involved in combat

What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?

Concussion symptoms typically show up soon after a head injury. The seriousness of the injury is difficult to pinpoint, and some concussion symptoms may not show for several hours or even days.

If a child suffers a blow to the head, he or she may appear dazed and confused almost immediately after, but an hour later they may not even remember how the incident occurred. It is important to consistently check for concussion symptoms right after the injury and over the next several days. If you or your child’s symptoms worsen, you should immediately take them to the nearest emergency room.

Concussions can even lead to bleeding in or around the brain, causing prolonged drowsiness and confusion. Bleeding in your brain can be fatal and requires immediate and constant monitoring in the hospital ER.

Concussion symptoms to monitor:

  • Headache or strong pressure in the head
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Cannot recall events before or after the incident
  • Moves clumsily
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Bothered by noise or light
  • Feeling hazy, foggy, or sluggish
  • Shows drastic changes in mood, personality, or behavior
  • Answers questions slowly or moves slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Nausea or vomiting

How Long Does a Concussion Last?

Approximately 80% of concussions resolve within seven to 14 days, though people with these injuries should never return to physical activity or sports sooner than one week after the incident.

Concussions affect people differently but for many, symptoms last a week or more. For more serious concussions, the patient may not recover for months or longer. Mental and physical rest are required to recover fully. This rest includes abstaining from physical activity and tasks that require memory or concentration such as school work, texting, computer use, video games, etc. Otherwise, these tasks can cause your brain to work harder and exacerbate the symptoms, thus slowing the recovery process.

For two days after a concussion injury, follow these steps to ensure a smoother recovery time:

  • Rest and relax
  • Avoid mental and physical activity
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Sleep at least 8 to 10 hours in 24 hours
  • Have someone check on you regularly to ensure symptoms are not worsening
  • Avoid screen time

Diagnosis and Treatment

While signs may not appear until hours or days after the injury, it is important to seek treatment and visit your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Your doctor will evaluate your concussion symptoms, conduct a neurological examination, cognitive testing, imaging tests, and review your medical history. 

Evaluation and testing

In the neurological examination, you can expect your doctor to check your:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Reflexes
  • Strength and sensation
  • Balance
  • Coordination

Your doctor may also evaluate your thinking (cognitive) skills, including your:

  • Memory
  • Concentration
  • Ability to recall information

Brain imaging is also recommended for some people who show signs of severe headaches, seizures, or vomiting. Brain imaging can determine whether the injury has caused swelling or bleeding. Imaging tests can include cranial computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


In some circumstances, extended care may be required and you will be hospitalized overnight for observation. However, if your doctor agrees that you can be observed at home, a family member or friend should stay with you to monitor your condition for at least 24 hours and ensure your symptoms do not worsen. This person may need to wake you regularly to make sure you can still wake up normally.

When illness or injury requires extended care, ER Near Me offers extended treatment in our observation suites for up to 23 hours. Our experienced medical team provides concierge-style inpatient services conveniently on-site. You can expect a comfortable, spacious environment and the full attention of our staff as you recover.

With on-site radiology, ER Near Me can quickly diagnose and treat head injuries and monitor you for signs of a concussion. If your injury requires inpatient care or surgery, ER Near Me will directly admit you to a hospital of your choice for further treatment. This ensures you get the proper medical attention you need without delay.

Concussion Signs and Symptoms Cheat Sheet

Head injuries are more common than you might think, and it is best to be prepared. Download our free Concussion Signs and Symptoms Cheat Sheet so you can have this list handy and know what to look for when an emergency strikes.