The information below was sourced from the Concussion Education Booklet prepared by Evidence to Care at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital with input from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Concussion Advisory Committee, the Ontario Brain Injury Association, as well as patients and families.
To download a copy of Concussion Education Booklet, click here.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that can affect how your brain works. Concussions may happen because of a hit to the head, neck, face or somewhere else on the body that makes the brain move quickly back and forth inside the skull. The brain can become injured if this happens. Falling, being in a collision, playing sports or being hit by an object or person are some examples of actions that can cause a concussion. Only a medical professional (doctor or nurse practitioner) can medically diagnose a concussion.
Everyone’s concussion experience is different. It is important to know that concussions can affect parts of life such as going to work or school, being physically active, playing sports and taking part in family and day-to-day activities.
What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?
Concussions can lead to symptoms that might appear right away or a few
days later. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer. Some people
may experience only one symptom and others may experience many.
Concussions can affect how you think and feel, as well as your mood
and sleep. Here are examples of symptoms that you might experience
after a concussion:
Track your symptoms by writing them down. Your family members or support person can help with this. Talk with your primary healthcare provider (the person you see most often for your medical issues) about any change in your symptoms so they can rule out something that might be more serious. Here are some warning signs that are linked to more serious brain injuries:
- A constant severe headache that gets worse
- Sudden severe vomiting or nausea
- Fainting or blacking out or if people can’t wake you up
- Very drowsy
- Seizures or convulsions
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
- Slurred speech, trouble talking, or not making sense
- Fluid or bleeding from the ear or nose
- Unusual or strange behaviour
- Have one pupil larger than the other (brainline.org)
*For children, look for any of the warning signs above as well as constant crying that cannot be consoled and refusal to nurse or eat.
What should I do if I suspect a concussion?
See your primary healthcare provider or an experienced concussion expert within 1-2 weeks of your diagnosis. This can be your family doctor, a children’s doctor, sports medicine doctor or a nurse practitioner. They will check your symptoms, monitor how you are doing and decide if or when they need to see you again.
To download or print a copy of the Concussion Do’s and Don’ts, click here.
How long does it take to recover from a concussion?
Most people who experience a concussion make a full recovery with symptoms lasting 1-4 weeks. For some, concussion recovery can take longer, with their symptoms lasting for 1-3 months. In fewer cases, symptoms can last long than that. Symptoms that last longer than three months are referred to as “prolonged symptoms”.
Your recovery may take longer if you:
- are an older adult or teenager
- are female
- return to work, school, or exercise too quickly
- have had a concussion before
- have a history of migraine, depression, or anxiety
- have a history of sleep difficulties
- show signs of vestibular and/or visual problems (e.g., blurred vision, dizziness, difficulty focusing, motion sensitivity)
It’s important to give your brain time to heal. Don’t wait too long to get the care you need. Talk to your primary healthcare provider if you are concerned.
Who can help me with my concussion?
Your primary healthcare provider might work with other healthcare providers or refer you to a concussion clinic. Concussion clinics should have a variety of health care providers who can help you work towards recovery so that you can return to the things you love and need to do. The concussion clinic should help you manage clinic appointments and external referrals, communicate with school, work, or activity settings, keep your primary healthcare provided up-to-date about your concussion care.Here are some of the different healthcare providers who practice in concussion clinics and the roles they play:
Medical treatment decisions and clearance: Medical doctor (e.g., family doctor, neurologist, sports medicine doctor), Nurse practitioner, or Neuropsychologist
Physical treatment: Physiotherapist, Vestibular therapist, Chiropractor, Registered massage therapist, optometrist
Functional, cognitive, and emotional support: Occupational therapist, Social worker, Neuropsychologist/psychologist, Speech-language pathologist
What questions should I ask when I visit my health care provider or concussion clinic?
Having a concussion can be overwhelming and stressful. It can be hard to know what questions to ask to make sure that you are getting the right type of care. To make this process easier, we made an interview guide with examples of questions that you might want to ask and tips to think about as you talk with healthcare providers about your concussion care.
What other supports are available?
We understand that navigating the health care system can be difficult for patients and family members. To help you better understand and manage concussions, we put together a list of evidence-based information, online resources, and organizations supporting people living with concussions. To access our Resources page, click here. ONF does not provide clinical advice or referrals.