Concussion and Head Injury Instructions for Patients

Written by julie rook
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Concussion and Head Injury Instructions for Patients
About 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the U.S. (head anatomy image by JASON WINTER from

A concussion is a head injury caused by a sudden, direct blow to the head. Such a blow can jolt your brain, causing it not to function normally. Some patients with concussions experience disturbed vision and loss of balance. Other symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, nausea, headache, sensitivity to light, blurred vision and memory loss.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Apply ice immediately. Applying ice to your head injury may decrease the size of the bruise or bump that may develop at the site of the trauma. Do not put ice directly onto the skin; use a washcloth as a barrier. Apply ice for 20 to 30 minutes at a time and repeat every two to four hours for the first 24 hours after trauma.

  2. 2

    Take a mild pain reliever if you experience pain. Acetaminophen is preferred because ibuprofen or aspirin can exacerbate bruising.

  3. 3

    Monitor your symptoms to ensure you do not have a more serious head injury. If you experience nausea, unsteady gait, confusion, persistent dizziness, neck pain, heart palpitations, or visual changes, your head injury may be more serious than you originally believed. Because concussions can cause you to become confused, be sure to inform family members, co-workers or others around you that you've suffered a blow to the head and ask them to be on the look out for unusual behaviour.

  4. 4

    Seek medical attention if symptoms develop. Do not drive yourself to your medical provider. Have a family member or friend take you or call a cab.

  5. 5

    Rest and curtail your activities. It is very important that you not repeat your head injury. Repeat head injuries and concussions can have cumulative effects on the brain, which can lead to permanent brain injury or death. Do not resume your normal activities, especially any participation in sports, if you are still experiencing symptoms and until you are cleared by your doctor.

Tips and warnings

  • If you experienced anything more serious than a minor bump on the head, seek medical attention immediately; do not try to treat a serious concussion or head injury yourself.

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