Kids playing baseball

Key Concussion Indicators

What signs to look for after a head injury

The signs and symptoms of a concussion aren’t always easy to detect—especially in other people. Though most concussion symptoms appear within minutes, some might take hours or even days to present, and are often subtle and might not be obvious to a bystander. Since diagnosis is an essential part of the healing process, being aware of the key concussion symptoms is critical. Whether you were in a fender bender, saw someone fall at the store or witnessed someone get hit in the head during a sporting event, be on the lookout for these signs of a concussion.

Observed Signs vs. Reported Symptoms

In the immediate aftermath of witnessing a head injury, you should be on alert for any observed signs of a concussion. Observed signs are behaviors a bystander can identify, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recognizing observed signs of concussions is particularly important in children, as they often can’t communicate their symptoms as well as adults. Observed signs might include being unable to remember what happened before the head injury; appearing dazed, confused, forgetful or clumsy; being slow to answer questions; and exhibiting behavior or personality changes.

Reported symptoms are signs, only the person who underwent the head injury would recognize. According to the CDC, reported symptoms can include: headache, nausea, blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, memory problems and confusion, feeling hazy or foggy, and feeling “down.” And remember that many people with concussions never lose consciousness. However, if the person was knocked unconscious, a concussion was absolutely sustained, regardless of observed signs or reported symptoms.

Immediate Effects vs. Delayed Effects

Symptoms of a concussion often do not show up immediately, and may change over the course of hours or days, according to the Mayo Clinic. The immediate effects of a concussion typically include symptoms like dizziness, seeing “stars,” loss of consciousness, feeling dazed, delayed response to questions and memory loss of the incident. Delayed effects, on the other hand, include things like personality changes, more significant memory loss, trouble sleeping, differences in taste or smell, irritability, psychological problems—such as depression—and personality changes.

After a head injury, be on the lookout for new and changing symptoms so that your child or loved one can get the help they need. Regardless of how the symptoms are presented, the most important next step is to seek the advice of a healthcare professional. Concussion diagnosis is the first step toward a safe and smooth recovery.