Concussion 

  • Overview

Introduction 

Accident prevention: teenagers

Henrietta Bond from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) gives advice on how to avoid some of the accidents that commonly occur among young people.

Media last reviewed: 01/06/2012

Next review due: 01/06/2014

Responding to an emergency

Get advice on first aid and when to dial 999, including what information to pass on to the emergency response units

Concussion is the sudden but short-lived loss of mental function that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head. Concussion is the most common but least serious type of brain injury.

The medical term for concussion is minor traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms of concussion include:

  • brief loss of consciousness
  • memory loss
  • disturbances in vision, such as 'seeing stars'
  • confusion

When to seek medical help

Most people with mild concussion do not require any treatment as they normally get better by themselves. However, if there are signs of a more serious injury, they may need emergency treatment.

Phone 999 for an ambulance immediately if the person:

  • remains unconscious after the initial injury
  • is having a seizure or fit
  • is bleeding from one or both ears
  • is having difficulty staying awake, speaking, or understanding what people are saying

Read about the symptoms of concussion for more information on when to seek emergency medical care or visit an accident and emergency (A&E) department.

There are a number of things you can do at home to relieve concussion symptoms, these include:

  • apply an ice pack to the injury to reduce swelling
  • take paracetamol to control any pain
  • avoid drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs

Read more about how concussion is treated including information on self care tips and when you can return to playing sport.

Recovery

After experiencing concussion, a period of careful monitoring is needed. This can be for several days or weeks, depending on how serious the concussion was.

This is because the symptoms of concussion could also be symptoms of a more serious condition, such as:

Both of these conditions are medical emergencies. Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible if you or someone in your care shows any of the following signs:

  • mental confusion
  • drowsiness that goes on for longer than an hour
  • difficulty speaking
  • loss of balance
  • persistent headache

Outlook

While the medical term 'minor traumatic brain injury' can sound serious, the actual extent of damage to the brain is usually minimal and does not usually cause long-term problems or complications.

There is evidence that repeated episodes of concussion could cause long-term problems with mental abilities and trigger dementia. This type of dementia is known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

However, this seems to only be a significant risk for professional athletes who experience repeated episodes of severe concussion, such as boxers (CTE is sometime nicknamed 'boxer’s brain'.)

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a poorly understood condition where symptoms of concussion can last for weeks or months afterwards.

Read more information about PCS as a complication of concussion.

Who's at risk?

Most cases of concussion occur in children and teenagers aged five to 14, with the two most common causes being sporting and cycling accidents.

Falls and motor vehicle accidents are a more common cause of concussion in older adults.

People who regularly play competitive team sports such as football and rugby have a higher risk of concussion.

Read more information about the causes of concussion and tips on preventing concussion.

Page last reviewed: 30/08/2012

Next review due: 30/08/2014

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