What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by either a direct or indirect blow to the head that is hard enough to disrupt the brain’s metabolic functioning. It is this metabolic disruption that causes the physical, cognitive, emotional and sleep-related symptoms of a concussion. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are between 1.6 million and 3.8 million concussions in the United States every year—the majority of which are from sports injuries.

Concussion Symptoms

Symptoms are not always obvious. Most people who suffer a concussion do not get "knocked out" or experience any kind of memory loss. Most symptoms are more subtle, and we know now that even a “bell-ringer” is really a concussion.

A variety of other symptoms can be observed, however. These may appear right away, or they may be later that day or the next as physical or cognitive exertion is resumed.

Some symptoms are physical, such as drowsiness, headache or light sensitivity. Others are cognitive, such as difficulties concentrating or remembering new information. Sometimes emotions are more variable, or sleep routines may be disrupted.

Even though it might not sound like much, a fall or collision with another athlete can cause a concussion. To recognize the signs of a concussion, parents should watch for these most common symptoms of a concussion:

  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Heightened sensitivity to lights or noises
  • Dizziness, clumsiness or sleepiness
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Attention or concentration problems
  • Memory loss, difficulties recalling the injury or trouble retaining new information
  • Confusion
  • Just not feeling "right"

It is important for athletes to report concussions in order to minimize the risk of permanent injury and prolonged symptoms.

Evaluating a Concussion

If you suspect that your child may have sustained a concussion, ensure that he or she is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional with specific expertise in concussion assessment. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself.

The experts at the Concussion Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center–Duluth—and the athletic trainers they’ve placed in several Northeast Metro Atlanta high schools and parks—have a number of methods they can use to assess the severity of concussions and to develop an appropriate care plan. They will work with a student’s teachers, coaches, athletic trainer and others in order to return your child to the classroom and playing field as quickly and as safely as possible.

Learn about proper concussion treatment here.

Find a Doctor

To talk to one of Atlanta’s leading concussions experts, or to set up an appointment, call 678-312-7880.