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Part 1: What You Need to Know About Concussions and Symptoms

By Dr. Molly Casey


Movement is life. Activity is an inherent part of health. The benefits of being active in life far outweigh the risks or potential costs of being inactive in life. It doesn’t mean you should ignore the risks or costs, but it does mean you should weigh the circumstances of both activity and inactivity.

A prominent injury not often talked about is the concussion.

In this first of a two-part series, we will look at what concussions are and their common symptoms. In the second article, we will go over prevention and treatment. The more you know, the better off you are.


Concussions are a traumatic brain injury. They are caused by a bump or blow to the head. The brain is shaken or affected from jarring within the skull. Violent shaking of the head and the upper body can also cause a concussion. Concussions cause temporary loss of normal brain function.

Common causes of concussions are falls in which the head is impacted by hitting something, and sports like boxing, football, skiing, or even basketball and soccer. Rapid acceleration and deceleration injuries -- like whiplash from car accidents or hits in football or even blasts in a warzone -- can all cause concussions.

Concussion Symptoms

It is important to note that concussions may or may not include a loss of consciousness. Symptoms can be vague and hard to pin down. Symptoms that accompany concussions vary and present in accordance with the degree or severity of the injury. So, the more severe the blow to the head, likely the more severe the symptoms. Many symptoms may be subtle and hard to put your finger on, although that does not mean the concussion itself should be tended to with less care. Physical symptoms may be as follows:

  • Headache or ringing in the ears
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue and/or drowsiness
  • Change in pupil size
  • Blurry vision and/or double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling of being in a fog
  • Not remembering the event itself or the situation around it
  • Focus and/or memory problems
  • Irritability and/or other personality changes
  • Light and/or noise sensitivity
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes and/or depression
  • Changes in taste and/or smell

Others may notice:

  • Slurred speech and/or delayed responses to questions
  • Dazed affect and/or appearance
  • Forgetfulness and/or hard time concentrating

Kids also get concussions, and all the symptoms listed above may be seen. However, it can be more difficult recognizing signs because kids can have a tougher time verbalizing some things. Additional things to look for are:

  • Listlessness and tiring easily
  • Crankiness or an increase in irritation that isn’t explainable
  • Excessive crying
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys
  • Loss of balance and unsteady walking
  • Seizures

Concussions can occur in daily life so you can’t withdraw totally hoping they don’t happen. They can also occur with sports and activity. As long as you take proper precautions, which we will go over in the next article, you can prepare yourself fully and trust that the benefits and risks of activity will outweigh the risks and disadvantages of an inactive lifestyle. In the meantime, know that if you have questions beyond immediate emergencies, your chiropractor is a great resource for questions and concerns regarding concussions.

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