How to Tell If a Person Has a Concussion

Two Methods:Determining if an Adult Has a ConcussionChecking For a Concussion in a Child

A concussion can be a serious head injury, but sometimes the severity of the damage is not known immediately. If you fear that you or someone you're with may be suffering from a concussion, check this list of symptoms and then head to a doctor. With a quick response and a bit of bed rest, recovery from a concussion is almost guaranteed.

Method 1
Determining if an Adult Has a Concussion

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    Check for consciousness. Although loss of consciousness is an easy indication of a concussion, it is not always requisite. Look to see if the person is responsive and can be roused with conversation. If they are unconscious, check their airways, breathing, and circulation to make sure they are all at normal levels.
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    Analyze their mental state. If the victim is conscious, you can proceed to this analysis immediately. If they are unconscious, then you will have to wait until they regain consciousness. Someone who has suffered a concussion will exhibit:
    • A difficult time concentrating
    • Foggy thoughts
    • Loss of memory
    • Difficulty forming new memories
    • A feeling of slowness.
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    Determine their mental awareness. If they seem to be acting strangely and are exhibiting the above symptoms of an altered mental state, ask a few questions to determine the extent of their incapacitation. Try asking general questions such as “what is your name?” and “what day is it?” If they are able to respond promptly and correctly to these, try asking a few more difficult memory-based questions.
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    Examine their physical state. Ask them how they feel; sufferers of a concussion often have:
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Strong headaches
    • Heightened sensitivity to light and sound
    • Problems with their balance.
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    Check the victim's eyes. If you have a flashlight, shine the light into their eyes. Do their eyes focus on the light and the pupils react correctly? The pupils of the eyes focused completely on light should constrict (grow smaller). If there is no response or they have irregular eye movements, suspect a head injury, stroke, or serious ailment.
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    Analyze their exhaustion levels. Suffering from a concussion typically disrupts a person’s regular sleep schedule and their exhaustion levels. Check to see if the victim is:[1]
    • Very tired and requires more sleep than usual
    • Has difficulty falling asleep and insomnia
    • Sleeps much less than usual
    • Highly lethargic or more exhausted during the day than normal
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    Look for changes in their emotional state. Sufferers of a concussion will exhibit:
    • Strange changes in their emotional state
    • High levels of anger, fear, sadness, or anxiety.
    • Mood swings and generally unstable emotions.[2]

Method 2
Checking For a Concussion in a Child

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    Examine their physical state. Check your child for all of the aforementioned concussion symptoms that adults experience.
    • Unconsciousness
    • Nauseous or vomiting
    • Have difficulty staying awake
    • Their balance is impaired
    • Their pupils do not dilate
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    Look for changes in their mental state. In the period shortly after a concussion, there will likely be obvious changes in your child’s mental state.
    • They are very sad, abnormally anxious or scared, or throwing temper tantrums
    • They have a difficult time focusing or concentrating on anything
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    Pay attention to their crying. Because children often get upset when they are injured, regardless of the extent of the injury, it may be difficult to tell if they have a concussion. Paying attention to their crying can help you determine if they are suffering from the brain injury or not.
    • The are crying significantly more than a usual injury
    • They are abnormally upset in addition to their extensive crying
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    Watch for changes in their behavior. In the period of time following a possible concussion, watch your child for strange changes in their behavior.
    • They lack interest in doing things they normally enjoy
    • Their eating or nursing is different than usual
    • They generally behave in a way you would consider unusual
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    Look out for loss of memory and skills. Although your child may not be old enough to respond to questions accurately, watch for changes that might indicate they’ve lost memory or the knowledge of how to perform a specific skill. Have they recently been potty trained or taught to hold a bottle, but can no longer perform these activities or no longer seem to know how? Losing the memory of performing a skill can be an indication of a concussion.[3]


  • Minor bumps may not be a concussion and the injured person may respond adequately and have no complaints. It is still a good measure to keep a close watch for emergency signs, especially vomiting, sluggish speech, or disorientation.
  • Concussions are cumulative. Long-term damage is common with repeat injuries. Muhammad Ali, the World Champion Boxer, now suffers from a Parkinson's-like illness because of all the blows to his head.
  • Always monitor the victim for a long period after the injury to be sure they do not worsen. Allow them to rest, but awaken them ever-so-often and ask them questions.
  • The recovery time from a concussion may last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. This differs for each person and individual injury.
  • Treatment for concussion typically involves bed rest.
  • Before you take your kid to the doctor, check for symptoms first.
  • Make sure you tell a coach or anyone who is likely to have first aid training right away about any symptoms of concussion. It's always better to check and be wrong than not check at all.


  • Severity of a head injury may be difficult to assess but if someone is knocked unconscious, they should be taken to the ER or you should call Call the Emergency Services. Brain hemorrhage should be ruled out and may not exhibit symptoms right away. A slow bleed could affect the person days after injury.
  • Repeated injury to the brain can lead to brain swelling, long-term disabilities, or death.
  • You are more likely to suffer repeated concussions if you do not allow the brain to heal after an initial concussion.
  • A serious head injury can result in a coma if the victim is not treated immediately.
  • If the victim experiences worsening headaches, vomits repeatedly, has blood or fluid leaking from the ears and nose, has a seizure, difficulty breathing, or slurred speech, take them to a doctor or the emergency room immediately.

Article Info

Categories: First Aid and Emergencies | Neurological Disorders