A concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is a brain injury that occurs when force is transmitted to the brain causing it to move quickly within the skull. This sudden movement causes a disruption in how parts of the brain communicate and results in a variety of symptoms. Concussions usually occur from a direct blow to the head, but can also occur when a hit or blow to the body transmits a force to the head causing the brain to violently move back and forth inside the skull. Although a concussion by itself is not life threatening, it is a serious injury that should be treated by experts in concussion care.
Please note that reading information about concussion, including this web page or others on Michigan Medicine websites, is not a substitute for appropriate care. A specialist should direct treatment and recovery of concussion.
Symptoms you may feel:
- Balance problems
- Visual problems
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling mentally foggy
- Feeling slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering
- Irritability or moodiness
- Decreased interest in hobbies
- Sleeping less than usual
- Sleeping more than usual
- Trouble falling asleep
The above symptoms lists are adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heads Up to Healthcare Providers: Tools from Providers. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/providers/tools.html)
Red Flag Symptoms: When to Go to the Emergency Room
Seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness for more than one minute
- Increasing confusion or inability to stay awake
- Repetitive vomiting
- Seizure or convulsion
- Severe or increasing headache
- Severe neck pain
- Weakness, tingling, or burning in arms or legs
- Persistent double vision or loss of vision
- Increasingly restless, agitated, or combative
Family members should monitor the patient closely for any of these “red flag” signs or symptoms. Bring the patient back to the ER immediately if you see any of the above symptoms.
Diagnosing a Concussion
A physical exam and careful history are the best ways to diagnose a concussion. Your doctor may or may not need to perform imaging to rule out more serious injuries, such as bleeding in the brain or skull fractures. Concussions cannot be seen or diagnosed on imaging (X-rays, CT or CAT scans, MRIs), or diagnosed by a blood test.
Treatment and Recovery
Recovery from concussion is a complex and dynamic process. During recovery it is critical to identify the factors responsible for symptoms and to develop a treatment plan targeting them. If recovery is not properly managed it can lead to unnecessarily prolonged recovery. Management of recovery should be individualized and directed by a healthcare provider with expertise in concussion care who has ready accesses to treatment resources.
There are three phases of concussion recovery:
- Acute Symptomatic
For more detailed information about these phases and concussion recovery management, visit our Concussion Treatment and Recovery page.
Treatment of Concussion in Athletes through Michigan Neurosport
The University of Michigan is one of only a handful of comprehensive programs in the country dedicated to the neurological concerns of athletes through our multidisciplinary NeuroSport outpatient clinic. Visit our Concussion in Athletes page or NeuroSport page for more information.
Make an Appointment
To request an appointment or to get more information, please call 734-930-7400 and a team member will get back to you within two business days.