Concussion Symptoms

Know how to spot the signs of a concussion.

Many athletes come to our concussion clinic and simply say, “I just don’t feel like myself.” Others may have specific complaints, such as headaches or dizziness, both common signs of a concussion.

The team at the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology determines what’s affecting you, including any harder-to-detect symptoms. They specialize in identifying the complex physical, cognitive and emotional effects of head injuries. Getting the right concussion care as early as possible is the best way to prevent further injury and long-term damage.

Learn more about our concussion care.

When is a concussion an emergency?

If you see any of the following signs in someone who has sustained a head injury, call 911 immediately:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Enlarged or uneven pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Numbness in any part of the body
  • Persistent, worsening headache
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Slurred speech

Do I have a concussion?

There are more than 20 indications of a concussion. If you’re an athlete who sustained an injury, you may notice symptoms yourself. If you’re a parent, coach, teacher, or athletic trainer, you may notice the signs in someone else. Concussion signs and symptoms typically fall into four categories: physical, cognitive, emotional and sleep-related.

  • Physical symptoms

    The physical effects of a concussion are usually the first symptoms to appear after an injury. During our evaluation, we ask you to rate the severity of your symptoms. Tracking your progress on a scale helps us determine when it’s safe for you to return to activities.

    Physical symptoms of concussion may include:

    • Balance problems or dizziness
    • Double or blurry vision
    • Feeling sluggish or groggy
    • Headache or “pressure” in your head
    • Nausea or vomiting (usually right after injury)
    • Sensitivity to light or noise

    It’s also important to remember that you don’t always lose consciousness when you sustain a concussion. Some people do, though most don’t.

  • Cognitive symptoms

    Cognition is our ability to think clearly and remember information. Assessing the cognitive effects of a head injury can help us determine the full extent of neurological damage. We perform a range of neurocognitive tests in our clinic. We also evaluate an athlete’s performance at school or work.

    A concussion may cause problems with:

    • Concentration
    • Memory
    • Problem-solving
    • Thinking clearly
  • Emotional symptoms

    Concussion symptoms aren’t always easy to identify, especially when it comes to the emotional effects. A head injury causes damage to brain cells, including those that control our behavior and mood. Even when an athlete recovers from the physical symptoms of a concussion, the psychological effects can persist.

    Emotional and psychological symptoms of concussion may include:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Irritability
    • Sadness
  • Sleep issues

    When you have a concussion, your brain needs a break. But it’s hard to rest when your normal sleep patterns are disturbed. Even a mild traumatic brain injury can damage nerves that help control our circadian rhythm, or our internal sleep-wake cycle.

    Many people who sustain a head injury report that they experience:

    • Breathing disruptions during sleep (sleep apnea)
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Sleeping less than usual (insomnia)
    • Sleeping more than usual (hypersomnia)

Post-concussion syndrome and long-term concussion effects

Post-concussion syndrome occurs when symptoms last for weeks or months after a head injury. Even with proper rest and the right treatment, the neurological effects of brain trauma persist. Headaches, dizziness and insomnia are the most common indicators of post-concussion syndrome.

Some people also experience even longer-term effects from concussions. Decades after a sports injury, fall or car accident, symptoms such as migraine headaches, memory loss and concentration problems can continue.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated hits to the head. CTE changes the structure of the brain and brain tissue. The condition usually affects former athletes or military veterans. Symptoms can include behavioral issues, depression and, eventually, dementia.

Watch Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher discuss the differences between a concussion and CTE.

Our care for continued brain trauma needs

Whether you’re dealing with post-concussion syndrome or the long-term effects of concussion, such as CTE, it’s never too late to get treatment. Our concussion specialists can design a treatment plan tailored to your symptoms. Treatments may include working with our neurologist, seeing a neuropsychologist or undergoing some form of cognitive rehabilitation.

Learn more about our sports neurology clinic.

Connect with a Concussion Specialist

Request an appointment online or call us at (313) 651-1969.


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