Sometimes also referred to as "mild traumatic brain injuries," concussions are most commonly caused by direct trauma to the head. There are five different "grades" assigned to identify a concussion's severity, with Grade I being the least severe and Grade V being the most serious. For the purposes of this article, Grade I and Grade II concussions are considered mild.
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Ask the person you suspect of having suffered a concussion if they are experiencing ringing in their ears or dizziness. These are the first telltale signs of a mild concussion, and these symptoms will usually evolve into a lasting headache.
Speak to the victim. If they respond with slurred speech, they may have suffered a concussion. Difficulty speaking is one of the primary means used to identify whether or not a person has suffered a head injury that will require medical attention.
Determine if the victim is confused or disoriented. Confusion is a classic symptom of a Grade I concussion and may, in fact, be the only symptom that is apparent at all.
See if the victim is suffering from what is known to doctors as "anterograde amnesia." This means that the victim cannot remember events that occurred after their head injury, but can remember the events that led up to it. Anterograde amnesia should last no longer than a few minutes if the concussion is, in fact, a mild one. If not, it may be a sign of a more serious injury.
Learn to identify symptoms of more serious concussions. If the victim develops sleep dysfunctions, mood disorders, trouble thinking or remembering, or becomes irritated by loud noise or bright light, a Grade III or higher concussion may have been sustained. These symptoms generally will not appear until a few days after the initial head injury.
Summon emergency medical attention for anyone who has suffered an injury to the head that results in unconsciousness lasting longer than a couple of minutes. Stabilize the victim until help arrives by preventing the victim from moving his head or neck.
Tips and warnings
- A pediatrician should examine any child suffering a head injury, even if the injury does not seem severe.
- If someone who has suffered a concussion remains unconscious for more than 5 minutes and experiences retrograde amnesia (meaning they can't remember events that happened before the concussion), it is considered a more serious concussion.
- Seek immediate medical attention in all cases of concussion, but especially for more serious ones.