What are the Symptoms of a Mild Concussion?

Amanda Livingstone

Specific symptoms associated with a mild concussion can vary depending on what concussion grading system is used. Varying symptoms of a mild concussion include brief confusion, post-traumatic amnesia and a mild headache. Loss of consciousness is one symptom that should never occur with a mild concussion.

Brief confusion is one symptom of a mild concussion.
Brief confusion is one symptom of a mild concussion.

A mild concussion can be caused by non-penetrating injuries that occur from a blow to the head, acceleration and deceleration forces. The most common situations in which non-penetrating head injuries occur are contact sports and accidents. Many concussion grade systems use Roman numerals, with a mild concussion classified as grade I and grade V being the most severe.

Most concussions are minor and do not cause lasting brain injury.
Most concussions are minor and do not cause lasting brain injury.

Sometimes, symptoms of a mild concussion are not immediately recognizable until physical or cognitive impairment occurs such as confusion or amnesia. One of the more common tell-tale signs of a mild concussion is temporary confusion in the form of poor concentration, inability to process information or sequence tasks. Typically, in a mild concussion, confusion lasts up to 15 minutes.

If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, they should be taken off the field of play immediately.
If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, they should be taken off the field of play immediately.

Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) sometimes occurs immediately following a mild concussion. With a mild concussion, PTA is usually temporary, lasting from seconds to a few minutes. An individual experiencing brief PTA because of a mild concussion is often unable to remember formerly familiar details — such as names, time, surroundings and events — after the injury. Confusion and PTA should not be accompanied by a loss of consciousness in a mild concussion. A concussion's grade should be reassessed if a loss of consciousness occurs, if a severe headache is present or if confusion or PTA lingers longer than 15 minutes.

Proper diagnosis of a mild concussion is essential to preventing brain damage or death from second impact syndrome (SIS). In most cases involving SIS, massive cerebral edema occurs immediately upon impact, leading to death or severe neurological impairment after the victim suffers a second concussion of any grade. For this reason, a concussion — including a mild one — must be allowed to heal properly before normal physical activities are resumed.

Treatment for symptoms of a mild concussion typically involves rest and observation. Depending on individual factors, a mild concussion might take as long as a week to heal. The complete absence of symptoms of a mild concussion generally is a sign that the concussion has healed. It is recommended for a person to seek professional medical advice before engaging in any physical activities, such as sports, after experiencing a mild concussion.

An MRI scan of the brain can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.
An MRI scan of the brain can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.

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