Whether it's from a sports injury or a fall at home, head injuries need to be checked by a doctor. At MaineHealth, we offer the services, skill and advanced technology to evaluate concussions and give patients the care they need for a full recovery. You do not need to lose consciousness to have a concussion, but some people do. There may be no visible signs of a concussion. People with head injuries need to see a doctor right away.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a bump or blow to the head. It is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The jolt to the head causes the head and brain to move back and forth. People also can get a concussion from being shaken. Concussion affects brain function. Most often the effect is temporary, and people get better with rest. Sometimes there is bleeding around the brain, which can be deadly. Even if you don’t feel it is an emergency, it’s a good idea to have a doctor check a head injury.

Concussion symptoms

Concussion symptoms vary. Some symptoms may not happen right away. Symptoms can be mild or severe. Symptoms can last for days or even months. People may have some of the following symptoms after a concussion:

  • Memory loss, or having trouble remembering the accident
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Feeling overly tired
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Acting dazed
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Confusion
  • Problems focusing
  • Problems with balance
  • Irritability

Concussion symptoms in children

The symptoms of concussion in children can be different from the concussion symptoms in adults. Young children may not be able to tell you how they feel. But parents and caretakers can look for the following clues:

  • Looking dazed
  • No energy
  • Very tired
  • Cranky
  • Crying a lot
  • Change in eating
  • Change in sleeping
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Losing consciousness for longer than 30 seconds
  • Headache that gets worse
  • Clumsiness
  • Falling down
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures

Concussion diagnosis

See a doctor if you or child has a head injury. Even if you feel emergency care is not needed, it is a good idea for a doctor to check out a head injury.

A concussion diagnosis includes a physical exam. The doctor will check your vision, hearing, strength, coordination and memory. Your doctor may order brain imaging to see if there bleeding or swelling inside your head; however most often a concussion can be diagnosed without imaging tests.

Concussion treatment

With concussions there is some brain injury. Patients usually are told by their doctor to get rest. Athletes are advised not to return to play until medically cleared to do so by a doctor. You may be advised to give your brain a rest, which means not to watch TV, use the computer, do schoolwork, read or text.

Sometimes patients are hospitalized overnight for observation after a concussion. People also may be sent by their doctor for rehabilitation to receive post-concussion therapy.