A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, occurs from a blow to the head or violent shaking. It is a very common injury in New Zealand, with approximately 24,000 cases every year.
Signs and Symptoms
Some immediate signs that a person has sustained a concussion include:
- Appears dazed
- Poor balance and lack of coordination
- Answers questions slowly
- Runs in the wrong direction
- Forgets events that occurred before and after impact
- Loses consciousness – but it is important to remember that a person can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness
A person may complain of:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Double or blurred vision
- Poor concentration
- Memory problems
- Sleep difficulties
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Ringing in ears
If you've had a concussion, or think you have a concussion, take it seriously and see your doctor.
Signs to watch for:
Problems could arise over the first 24 hours. You must go to the hospital if you:
- Have a headache that gets worse
- Are very drowsy or can’t be woken up
- Can’t recognise people or places
- Pass out or have a blackout
- Vomit more than 3 times
- Behave unusually or seem confused
- Have seizures
- Have weak arms or legs, or are unsteady on your feet
- Slur your speech
The person looking after you needs to get you straight to the hospital or call 111 if they notice any of the above symptoms. Don’t hesitate – remember, it is better to be safe.
It is important not to go to sleep in the first 4 hours. After that, a normal night’s sleep is needed, at the normal time. If sleep seems strange in any way, the person looking after you needs to know to rouse you until you can say a word or two, then let you go back to sleep.
If there is any worry about the severity of the blow, it is safest on the first night to gently rouse the sleeper every 2 hours during the night, and ask them to answer to simple questions. If a person cannot be woken normally, then medical help must be sought.
Do not drink alcohol or take sleeping pills for at least 48 hours.
Do not drive for at least 24 hours. You can drive again when you stop feeling giddy and you feel well enough; if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
It's safe to take paracetamol for the headache. Don’t take medication containing aspirin or disprin for the next 4 days. This type of of medicine can make you bleed more from cuts and bruises.
Returning to sport
You must stand down from sport for at least 3 weeks AND you should not return to sport or training until you are symptom free AND have medical clearance. That way you’ll return 100% ready for play.
- Repeated concussions have a cumulative effect, so if you keep having concussions you may end up with a more serious injury and a permanent disability.
- Second Impact Syndrome – acute brain swelling and bleeding that occurs when a second concussion is sustained before the first one has healed properly. This can be difficult to treat, and can be fatal.
More on Concussion from ACC Sportsmart
Watch our educational videos on concussion:
Video 1: How the brain works
Video 2: Definition of concussion
Video 3: Metabolic concussion
Video 4: Symptoms of concussion
Video 5: Concussion management