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Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury

Children and teens who show or report one or more of the signs and symptoms listed below, or simply say they just "don't feel right" after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, may have a concussion or more serious brain injury.

Concussion Signs Observed

  • Can't recall events prior to or after a hit or fall
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes

Concussion Symptoms Reported

  • Headache or "pressure" in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision
  • Bothered by light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems
  • Just not "feeling right" or "feeling down"


  • Mild: Person may remain conscious or be briefly unconscious (up to a few minutes); also, headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue (including changed sleep patterns), behavior or mood swings, trouble with memory and concentration.
  • Moderate or severe: As above, but headache worsens or does not go away; also, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, inability to wake from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.


  • Imaging tests, including X-rays of the head and neck to check for fractures or other problems; computed tomography (CT) scans to give a 3D view.
  • To gauge severity, medical professionals typically use a standard, 15-point test to measure a person's level of consciousness and neurologic function, including speaking, seeing, and movement.


1. Immediate First-Aid

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Keep the person still, lying face up, with head and shoulders slightly raised; do not move the person unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stop any bleeding, applying firm pressure to the wound with sterile gauze or clean cloth; do not apply direct pressure if you think there could be a skull fracture.
  • Monitor breathing and alertness; if breathing or movement ceases, immediately begin CPR.

2. Professional Medical Care

  • Medical personnel try to stabilize the person's condition and prevent further injury by ensuring an adequate supply of blood and oxygen to the brain and rest of the body, and by controlling blood pressure.
  • Moderate to severe TBI requires rehabilitation, which may involve physical, speech and occupational therapy, counseling, and social services support.
  • About half of the severely head-injured require brain surgery to repair or remove ruptured blood vessels or bruised brain tissue, followed by long stays in intensive care units.
Read More "Concussion" Articles

Sports and Concussion / NIH Research on Concussion and the Brain / Doug Flutie: "Be on the Safe Side." / Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury

Summer 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 2 Page 13