What Are 5 Symptoms of a Concussion?

Medically Reviewed on 1/25/2022
What Are 5 Symptoms of a Concussion
The 5 main symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, drowsiness, altered mental state, and post-traumatic amnesia

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a sudden blow to the head or an accident that may or may not result in loss of consciousness.

While there are several signs and symptoms of a concussion that may present right after an accident, the five primary symptoms are:

  • Headache: Develops within a few hours or days
  • Nausea and/or vomiting: Vomiting may occur immediately after the accident, while nausea may develop a few hours after the incident
  • Dizziness or drowsiness: Lethargy, fatigue, blurred vision, and general tiredness
  • Altered mental state: Decreased alertness, confusion, and disorientation, causing a mental fog
  • Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA): Temporary loss of memory can occur in which the person is unable to recall events before (retrograde PTA) or after (antegrade PTA) the accident 

Other symptoms of a concussion may include:

What is a concussion?

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, a concussion is “a clinical syndrome characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function, including alteration of mental status or level of consciousness that results from mechanical force or trauma.”

The brain is a vital organ, protected by the skull and surrounded by spinal fluid that provides a cushioning effect to prevent it from injury and shock. However the brain lies in a closed space, meaning an abrupt blow to the head or a traumatic injury can cause bruising, bleeding, swelling, damage to the blood vessels and nerves, and temporary chemical changes that can lead to impaired brain function.

What are the different grades of a concussion?

Based on the severity, a concussion is classified into three grades:

  • Grade I:
    • Mild symptoms
    • Symptoms lasting less than 15 minutes
    • No loss of consciousness
  • Grade II:
    • Moderate symptoms
    • Symptoms lasting more than 15 minutes
    • No loss of consciousness
  • Grade III:
    • Severe symptoms
    • Symptoms that last for a long period of time
    • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds or more

What causes a concussion?

Common causes include:

  • Direct trauma to the head or head injury due to
    • Sports-related accidents
    • Car accidents
    • Bicycle accidents
    • Work-related injury
    • Fight
    • Fall
  • Whiplash injuries
  • Blow to the body that causes the brain to move violently back and forth


Brain Food Pictures: What to Eat to Boost Focus See Slideshow

What are risk factors for concussions?

People who are at greater risk of a concussion include:

  • Athletes
  • Older people and children under age 4 (due to frequent falls)
  • Young adults (due to frequent car accidents)
  • Occupational drivers
  • Victims of physical abuse
  • History of concussion

How serious is a concussion?

A concussion may not always be a life-threatening condition but can be a significant injury that can have long-term consequences if left untreated. Research has suggested that sustaining even a single concussion may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

In rare cases, a concussion can lead to hematoma (accumulation of blood due to damage to a blood vessel) in the brain. 

Emergency medical attention is required if these signs are visible:

  • Inability to wake up
  • Severe, worsening headache
  • Inability to speak or slurred speech
  • Repeated vomiting, seizures, or convulsions
  • Watery or bloody discharge from the ears or nose
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Unequal pupils

What are potential complications of a concussion?

A concussion may resolve within few hours or days; however, some individuals may suffer from long-term aftereffects such as:

What tests are done for a concussion?

Head injuries almost always need immediate medical attention, even if they are minor. A concussion may also be accompanied by injuries of the spine and neck.

Your doctor may recommend a thorough neurological examination and cognitive testing to evaluate brain function (through reflexes) and motor skills (uncoordinated movements and balance).

How is a concussion treated?

Concussions typically heal completely within a few weeks. Experts recommend seeking medical attention within 24-72 hours if symptoms worsen. Treatment may involve:

If the concussion is diagnosed as Grade I or II, you should rest until symptoms are gone completely. You may be able to resume normal activities within several hours, days, or a week.

Surgery may be required if there is:

Medically Reviewed on 1/25/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Neha Pathak. Concussion. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/brain/concussion-traumatic-brain-injury-symptoms-causes-treatments

Concussion. American Association of Neurological Surgeons: https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Concussion

What is a Concussion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html

Rochelle Haas. Concussions. KidsHealth: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/concussions.html