How to Know if a Concussion is an Emergency

Impact to the head can cause a “brain bruise”, or concussion.  Only about 10% of people who have a concussion actually get knocked out, while most will have other symptoms which occur alone or in combination.  Common complaints include headache, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, unsteadiness, nausea, grogginess and vision or hearing changes.  While all concussions should be evaluated by a physician, certain head injuries are severe and need immediate medical attention, including imaging studies such as a CT or MRI scan.  How does one know, then, whether 911 should be called after a family member or friend sustains head trauma?  The following is a list of emergency symptoms and findings that require immediate care:

  1. Any person that does not regain consciousness within 15 to 30 seconds, or has a very hard time staying awake despite vigorous attempts to keep him so
  2. Fluid draining from the nose and/or ears
  3. Severe headache, especially if accompanied by a painful, stiff neck
  4. Inability to speak or walk
  5. Repeated vomiting
  6. Worsening confusion or seizures
  7. Unequal pupils

These symptoms and findings often indicate underlying swelling or bleeding of the brain that will be life threatening if the victim is not transported to the hospital immediately.  Do not delay!

If you or a loved one has sustained head trauma but are not experiencing the above symptoms, physician evaluation is still necessary.  Contact you primary care provider to schedule and appointment and discuss recommendations for care of a concussion.

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