The term concussion describes an injury to the brain resulting from an impact to the head. By definition, a concussion is not a life-threatening injury, but it can cause both short-term and long-term problems. A concussion results from a closed-head type of injury and does not include injuries in which there is bleeding under the skull or into the brain. Another type of brain injury must be present if bleeding is visible on a CT scan (CAT scan) of the brain.
A mild concussion may involve no loss of consciousness (feeling “dazed”) or a very brief loss of consciousness (being “knocked out”).
A severe concussion may involve prolonged loss of consciousness with a delayed return to normal.
A concussion can be caused by any significant blunt force trauma to the head such as a fall, a car accident, or being struck on the head with an object.
Loss of consciousness after any trauma to the head
Loss of short-term memory (you may not remember the actual injury and the events some time before or after the impact)
Perseverating (repeating the same thing over and over, despite being told the answer each time, for example, “Was I in an accident?”)
Call the doctor about any of the following situations. The doctor will recommend home care, set up an appointment to see the patient, or send the patient to a hospital’s emergency department.
A person struck a hard object with the head (for example: tile floor, ice, bathtub) but did not lose consciousness
Extreme drowsiness, weakness, or inability to walk
Loss of memory of the event (amnesia)
Perseverating (saying the same thing over and over)
Someone who takes warfarin (Coumadin) for a medical problem suffers and suffers a significant blow to the head.
If the person fails to regain consciousness after two minutes, or the injury is very severe even if two minutes have not passed, DO NOT move the person. Prevent movement of the neck, which may cause spinal injuries. If the person needs to vomit, carefully roll the person onto his or her side without turning the head. Call 911 immediately for help.
If you are unsure of the severity of the injury, take the person to the emergency department immediately.
Should an injured person be allowed to fall asleep? Many mistakenly believe it is important to keep people, especially children, awake after they have been struck on the head. Children are often more emotionally upset than they are physically injured after a minor fall. They will cry and appear distressed, but as the parent rushes them to the hospital, children may begin to calm down. Because they have expended a lot of physical and emotional energy crying, they will often want to fall asleep.
You do not need to keep the child awake. In many cases it may be helpful to the emergency doctor to be able to awaken the child who is now more calm and rested and will behave normally. This gives the doctor a better assessment of the severity of the head injury.
If, however, a child who was initially normal after a head injury cannot be awakened, or is extremely difficult to awaken, then the child may have a more serious head injury and should be evaluated by a doctor.