A concussion is defined as a “trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness.” A concussion can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body the causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.  

Concussions commonly occur from a fall, sporting activities, or car accidents. A concussion can affect how the brain works for a while. It may lead to headaches, changes in alertness, or loss of consciousness. 

A person can also have a concussion and not realize it. Concussion signs and symptoms can appear immediately or not be noticed until days or even weeks after the injury.

Explaining Concussions and Care

Learn more about concussions, care and what to look for from David Popoli, MD, a sports medicine physician at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.


Common symptoms of a concussion may include: 

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Bothered by light or noise
  • Acting somewhat confused
  • Unable to concentrate or not thinking clearly 
  • Memory loss (amnesia) of events before the injury or right after 
  • Feeling like you have "lost time" 
  • Being drowsy or hard to wake up 
  • Sleep problems

The following are emergency symptoms of a more severe head injury or concussion.  Seek medical care immediately if symptoms include:

  • Worsening headache
  • Repeated vomiting 
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in alertness and consciousness 
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Unusual behavior change
  • Weakness or numbness in arms or legs  
  • Walking or balance problems 
  • Can’t be awakened 
  • Seizures 


If you suspect you may have sustained a concussion, visit a health care provider experienced with concussion management. Be sure to report all symptoms, no symptom is too small.

Your provider will explain what to expect, how to manage any headaches, and how to treat your other symptoms, when to return to sports, school, work, and other activities. 

Get plenty of rest and avoid activities that require a lot of concentration. Keep a regular sleep routine and limit screen time.

Give your brain time to heal. Sustaining another concussion while the brain is healing can result in long term problems or even death in rare cases.

After your provider gives the OK to return to activity, take it slow at first. Don’t jump back into work or sports all at once. Develop of safe plan for progressively returning to work or sports with your provider. Both adults and children must follow the provider's instructions about when it will be possible to return to sports.

After returning to activity, if you have any concerns or if your symptoms return, don’t hesitate to bring them up with your health care provider.