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Concussion symptoms

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury that results in a temporary disruption in the way the brain normally functions

While concussions are considered a mild form of brain injury, the effects of a concussion can be serious and warrant appropriate medical attention to optimize recovery.

Concussions can happen in contact related sports, such as football, non-contact related sports, such as cheerleading and even outside of organized sports. For example, riding a bike without a helmet could result in a concussion.

Concussion symptoms are unique to each individual. In fact, even if you have had a concussion before, your second concussion can present with different symptoms than the first.

If you believe your child has a traumatic brain injury or concussion, call your child's doctor immediately.

Common symptoms of concussions include

Physical symptoms 

  • Headache
  • Pressure in head
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Balance difficulties
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Vision problems
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Cognitive symptoms 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Feeling foggy/sluggish
  • Slowed response time
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Clearly confusion

Sleep symptoms

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Drowsiness

Emotional symptoms

  • Sad
  • Irritable
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Nervous/anxious  
  • Loss of interest in activities

In infants and toddlers, you may notice: 

  • Changes in play or loss of interest in favorite activities 
  • Excessive crying (more than usual/child can't be consoled) 
  • Listlessness (child feels floppy in your arms) 
  • Loss of new skills such as walking or toilet training 
  • Refusal to eat or nurse 
  • Swelling of scalp or soft spot 

Watch this video to learn more about detecting and treating concussions.

Frequently asked questions about brain injuries

We understand as a parent you might have a lot of questions around brain injuries. How do I know how severe the brain injury is? When can my child return to sports? How can I make sure they recover safely?

We answer your top questions here
If you suspect your child or teen has a concussion or brain injury, follow these steps:

If you suspect your child or teen has a concussion or brain injury, follow these steps:

  1. Seek medical attention right away by calling 804-628-4878 or 855-742-4878 (toll-free)
  2. Keep your child out of play
  3. Ask us for written instructions on helping your child return to school. You can give the instructions to your child’s school nurse and teacher(s) and return-to-play instructions to the coach and/or athletic trainer.

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Meet the team

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Olivier Rolin, MD, PhD
Olivier Rolin MD, PhD Physical medicine and rehabilitation
Concussion/traumatic brain injury
Sports medicine
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Bill Shaw, MD
Bill Shaw MD Concussion/traumatic brain injury
Sports medicine
General pediatrics/primary care
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