A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that alters how the brain functions. Effects are usually temporary, but can include problems with headache, concentration, alertness, memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance, coordination, and sleep.

What Causes a Concussion?

The brain is a soft organ (like gelatin) that is surrounded-by and floats-in cerebrospinal fluid within the skull. Normally, the fluid around the brain acts like a cushion that keeps the brain from banging into the walls of the skull. But if the head is struck with enough force, the brain can crash into the inner walls of the skull causing the brain to bruise, bleed, tear, or swell. A concussion can result from a fall, sports activity, car accident, fight, explosion, or anything that causes a forceful impact or trauma to the head. Although concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head or upper body are violently shaken e.g., shaken baby syndrome.

Recognizing a Concussion

A loss of consciousness is a sure sign of a possible concussion, but in some cases, a person may have a concussion and not black out or even realize it. Below are some of the symptoms and warning signs that a person may have suffered a concussion.

  • Drowsy or feeling spacey
  • Headache
  • Memory loss (amnesia)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • A feeling of lost time
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unequal pupils
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking problems