Concussion Signs and Symptoms

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How do I tell if an athlete has sustained a concussion?

An athlete may complain of many different concussion symptoms that can be grouped into four general categories:  physical, cognitive, emotional and sleep.

Physical Cognitive Emotional Sleep
Headache Feeling mentally foggy Irritability Trouble falling asleep
Dizziness Feeling slowed down Sadness Sleeping more than usual
Balance problems Difficulty concentrating Nervousness Sleeping less than usual
Nausea/vomiting Difficulty remembering More emotional than usual  
Fatigue Difficulty Focusing  
Sensitivity to light  
Sensitivity to noise

Furthermore, here are some signs that may be observed by people around the athlete, such as teammates, coaches, or parents. 

The athlete…

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Is confused about assignments or position
  • Loses consciousness/gets “knocked out” (even briefly)
  • Forgets an instruction
  • Shows mood, behavior or personality changes
  • Is unsure of game, score or opponent
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Moves clumsily
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

While a blow to the head may not always seem like a big deal at the time, concussion symptoms can develop immediately or up to 48 hours after the incident. Ignoring any signs or symptoms of a concussion is putting the child’s health at risk – in both the short and long term.

Furthermore, here are some signs that may be observed by people around the athlete, such as teammates, coaches, or parents.

For more information about what to do after a concussion has been identified, why playing through a concussion is dangerous, and how to help an athlete get better faster, visit our Concussion Toolkit page and pick the guide that is right for you!