Authored by Revere Health

Concussions: Signs, Complications and Risk Factors

May 23, 2017 | Neurology

The brain is a complex organ with many functions, and if it undergoes extreme trauma, those functions can be temporarily or permanently damaged. One example of trauma a brain might experience is a concussion.


Signs and Symptoms

Concussion symptoms may not show up right away, and in some case they may not show up at all. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer periods. Symptoms include:


  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion, foggy feelings and amnesia about the traumatic event
  • Ringing in ears
  • Trouble with vision, dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dazed appearance
  • Trouble understanding speech or responding to questions
  • Tiredness


  • Symptoms that are often delayed for hours or days after the initial trauma include:


  • Sleep problems
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Personality changes and general irritability, or depression
  • Concentration and memory issues
  • Taste and smell disorders


In children who can’t describe these symptoms themselves, careful observation will be necessary after a head trauma. Symptoms may mimic those above and include excessive crying or crankiness, loss of balance, changes in eating or sleeping patterns or losses of interest in normal activities or toys.

If any of the following symptoms show up, seek immediate emergency care:


  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness for over 30 seconds
  • Extreme headache that continues to worsen
  • Noticeable changes in behavior or coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Lasting dizziness
  • Large bumps on the head or bruises on the forehead in children


Possible Complications

Concussions can lead to several complications:


  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Post-concussion syndrome: Symptoms include headaches, dizziness and general losses of coordination. They can continue for weeks or months.
  • Second impact syndrome: In rare cases where a second concussion takes place before any symptoms of the original concussion were present, this syndrome can cause rapid swelling in the brain that’s often fatal. For this reason, athletes who undergo head trauma should be handled with extreme care, and any who are showing even moderate concussion symptoms should not return to play.
  • Cumulative effects: For people who suffer multiple brain injuries over time, lasting impairments might be possible.


Causes and Risk Situations

During a major head trauma, the brain slides back and forth against the inner walls of the skull. This can lead to bleeding around the brain, causing a concussion. Situations and factors that raise the risk of sustaining this sort of brain trauma include:


  • High-impact sports like football, hockey, soccer, rugby or boxing—risk is increased further if these sports are played without proper safety equipment and supervision
  • Car, pedestrian or bicycle accident
  • Falls, especially for young people or older adults
  • Soldiers in active combat
  • Physical abuse
  • Previous concussion(s)


Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for concussions vary between cases. Some people may feel fine after a few hours, but others may have symptoms that last weeks and require regular observation. Your doctor may give you several different tips for ways to decrease symptoms. Anyone who receives a concussion during sports or other physical activity should stop that activity immediately and seek medical attention.

Preventing concussions involves taking precautions during high-risk events or situations. These precautions include:


  • Wearing a seatbelt while in any motor vehicle
  • Improving home safety to prevent falls, especially if younger children or older adults live in the home
  • Wearing helmets and proper safety equipment for all high-impact events
  • Not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Teaching and informing children about helmets, bike safety, playground caution and safety in the street and around cars can help lower their risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury.


If you or someone close to you has recently sustained a concussion, seek medical attention. Your doctor will give you a treatment and prevention plan that works best for you.  


Our neurologists are trained specialists and work with your primary care physicians to develop a treatment plan personalized for you. We have access to the latest in imaging technology and our specialists are up to date on the most recent treatment options.



“Concussion Overview.” The Mayo Clinic.

“Concussion – Topic Overview.” WebMD.

“Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.