Speak Up: Concussion Signs and Symptoms

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. It is a serious injury that requires medical attention; athletes should never continue playing with a suspected concussion. Team Up Speak Up asks athletes to look out for their teammates when it comes to concussions.

To be a great teammate, learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion so that you know when a teammate needs help. Be on the lookout for these clues that something isn't right and speak up to a coach, athletic trainer, or team leader if you suspect your teammate might have a concussion.

Concussion Signs 

Concussion signs are clues you can observe about your teammate that tell you they might have a concussion. Signs of a concussion range from obvious to much more nuanced, but you know your teammates best and you should speak up if something doesn't seem right. Even one sign of a concussion after a hit to the head is cause for action.

Common concussion signs include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Balance issues
  • Glazed look in the eyes
  • Amnesia
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Forgetting instructions
  • Confusion about very obvious facts e.g. the score, the game or practice location, the opponent
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Vomiting

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Concussion Symptoms

Concussion Symptoms are what someone who is concussed will tell you they are experiencing. Pay attention to what your teammates say feels out of the ordinary, especially after seeing them take a hit to the head. Most importantly, don't be afraid to speak up for yourself if you feel strange after a hit to the head. Reporting concussion symptoms is best for an athlete's health and best for the team because athletes who report concussions immediately recover faster than athletes who delay reporting.

Concussion symptoms typically fall into four major categories: 

Physical Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sensitivity to light

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulties with attention or focus
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty completing mental tasks

Sleep Symptoms

  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks

Note: This list is not an exhaustive list of concussion signs and symptoms, and it may take a few days for concussion symptoms to appear after the initial injury.

The Importance of Team Up Speak Up

If you suspect a concussion in a teammate, it is extremely important to get them help immediately so they can be evaluated by a trained professional. It's best for your teammate, and best for the team.

A 2018 University of Florida study found that, in a group of college athletes across 18 sports, athletes who stopped activity immediately after being injured missed three fewer days of competition than those who continued to play before getting help. Additionally, immediate removal from activity reduced concussion symptoms by about two days and decreased the likelihood of missing more than two weeks of participation by 39 percent. 

After removal from play, doctors recommend physical and cognitive rest for a few days following a concussion, or until you see a medical professional. Hear from Dr. Robert Cantu, medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, about why the brain needs rest after a concussion:

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