Concussion is traumatic brain injury caused by force to the head. Most people who have concussion will recover on their own within 2 weeks, but complications can occur. It is important that people with concussion rest and that their recovery is monitored.
What causes concussion?
Concussion is a common head injury in contact sports, such as Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby. People can also be concussed in anything with a risk of falls, such as horse riding, cycling and skiing. Anybody who is suspected of having concussion while they're playing sport should sit out the rest of the game.
People can also get concussion outside of sports. This can be a bang on the head from falling over, or from a sudden and vigorous movement of the head, such as a whiplash injury from a car accident.
Concussion signs and symptoms
Call an ambulance if someone has:
- neck pain or tenderness
- double vision
- tingling or weakness in the arms or legs
- a severe headache
- a seizure
- loss of consciousness
- is very agitated or restless
Signs that might indicate someone has concussion include:
- lying motionless
- getting up slowly after being hit on the head
- being disorientated or confused
- having trouble balancing
- looking blank or vacant
- having an injury to the face or head
People who have concussion may have:
- nausea or vomiting
- problems with balance
- problems with attention
- sensitivity to noise and light
- brief convulsions
- temporary memory loss
- blurred vision
- being more emotional, anxious or sad
If you have had concussion, it is important to see a doctor. Do not drive and don't take medicines like aspirin, anti-inflammatories, sleeping tablets and sedating pain medications until your doctor tells you it's ok. Your doctor may order a head scan. Some people are kept in hospital for observation. It is important that, after concussion, you are with other people until you recover.
If you have had concussion, you need to rest, both physically and mentally. Children should stay home from school and not use a computer or play video games.
People can return to school or work after resting for 24 to 48 hours, as long as it doesn’t make their symptoms worse. It’s best to increase the load on the brain gradually.
People can return to light physical activity after resting for 24 to 48 hours, as long as this doesn’t worsen symptoms. It will take some time to return to full sporting activity.
For information on returning to sport, visit the Concussion in Sport website.
Most people recover fully within 2 weeks. Some people have symptoms for longer.
A small number of people have longer-term complications. Some have symptoms that last a long time. Some get repeated concussions. People in these situations should see a doctor.
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Last reviewed: March 2020