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About Concussion

What is a concussion?

Currently, there are several ways to describe concussion. The terms concussion and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) are often used interchangeably. On this website the term concussion will be primarily used.


A concussion is a brain injury that can affect how your brain works. Concussions may happen because of a hit to the head, face, neck or somewhere else on the body. When a hit takes place, the brain moves back and forth inside the skull. If it moves hard enough, the brain can become injured. This can make your brain and body work and feel different. (Concussion and You: A Handbook for Parents and Kids, Holland Bloorview Kid’s Rehabilitation Hospital)

A concussion can be caused by any impact to the head, face, neck, or body that results in the rotational acceleration of the brain within the skull. Concussion primarily reflects a transient disturbance in brain functioning, so it will not show as an abnormality on routine imaging. It is important to rule out comorbidities or other conditions or injuries. Concussion signs and symptoms may appear immediately or can evolve after several minutes or hours. A loss of consciousness is not required for the diagnosis of concussion. (Concussion Awareness Training Tool)

A brain made of paper, flaking away

What is a concussion?

Currently, there are several ways to describe concussion. The terms concussion and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) are often used interchangeably. On this website the term concussion will be primarily used.
A concussion is a brain injury that can affect how your brain works. Concussions may happen because of a hit to the head, face, neck or somewhere else on the body. When a hit takes place, the brain moves back and forth inside the skull. If it moves hard enough, the brain can become injured. This can make your brain and body work and feel different (Concussion and You: A Handbook for Parents and Kids, Holland Bloorview Kid’s Rehabilitation Hospital).

A concussion can be caused by any impact to the head, face, neck, or body that results in the rotational acceleration of the brain within the skull. Concussion primarily reflects a transient disturbance in brain functioning, so it will not show as an abnormality on routine imaging. It is important to rule out comorbidities or other conditions or injuries. Concussion signs and symptoms may appear immediately or can evolve after several minutes or hours. A loss of consciousness is not required for the diagnosis of concussion. (Concussion Awareness Training Tool)

Recognizing a concussion

Following a concussion, you may feel many different symptoms. Some symptoms may appear right away and some may appear later. Some may appear when you start thinking or exercising. Some may be subtle and may go unnoticed by you but may be noticed by co-workers, teachers, friends or family.
No two concussions are the same; however these are some common symptoms:

Physical

Cognitive

Emotional

Sleep

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling mentally foggy
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness
  • More emotional than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual

If you suspect you have had a concussion, stop playing, studying, working or driving. You should not be alone for 24-48 hours. You should go to a doctor or emergency department if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A headache that gets worse
  • Drowsiness and can’t be woken up
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Unusual behaviour or confusion
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Increasing irritability
  • Seizure
  • Weak or numb arms or legs
  • Unsteadiness/balance problems
  • Neck pain
  • Slurred speech
A woman with her head in her hands in pain

Recognizing a concussion

Following a concussion, you may feel many different symptoms. Some symptoms may appear right away and some may appear later. Some may appear when you start thinking or exercising. Some may be subtle and may go unnoticed by you but may be noticed by co-workers, teachers, friends or family.
No two concussions are the same; however these are some common symptoms:

Physical

Cognitive

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling mentally foggy
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty focusing

Emotional

Sleep

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness
  • More emotional than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual

If you suspect you have had a concussion, stop playing, studying, working or driving. You should not be alone for 24-48 hours. You should go to a doctor or emergency department if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A headache that gets worse
  • Drowsiness and can’t be woken up
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Unusual behaviour or confusion
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Increasing irritability
  • Seizure
  • Weak or numb arms or legs
  • Unsteadiness/balance problems
  • Neck pain
  • Slurred speech

Concussion Information Cards

Concussion Information Cards

Downloadable PDF Versions:

Tools for concussion recognition

There are a number of tools that can be used by health professionals, coaches and athletic therapists to identify concussion in children, teens and adults. Although some of these tools were developed for sports, these tools can also be helpful in other situations (e.g., playground, car crash, falls) with some minor adaptations to memory questions (e.g., Where are you? What day is it?).

For Everyone

For Health Professionals

The SCAT tools were developed for sport concussion assessment by coaches and health professionals:

The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation guidelines are internationally recognized for recognizing and managing concussions in adults and children:

Parachute is a Canadian-leader in injury prevention and provides evidence-based concussion resources:

The SCAT tools were developed for sport concussion assessment by coaches and health professionals:

The Acute Concussion Evaluations (ACE) are a set of concussion assessment tools from the CDC, which include:

a shorter assessment tool for health professionals

for health professionals to give to families of children and teens after a concussion has been identified

for health professionals to give to adults after a concussion has been identified

Tools for concussion recognition

There are a number of tools that can be used by health professionals, coaches and athletic therapists to identify concussion in children, teens and adults. Although some of these tools were developed for sports, these tools can also be helpful in other situations (e.g., playground, car crash, falls) with some minor adaptations to memory questions (e.g., Where are you? What day is it?).

For Everyone

For Coaches

The SCAT tools were developed for sport concussion assessment by coaches and health professionals:

For Health Professionals

The SCAT tools were developed for sport concussion assessment by coaches and health professionals:

The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation guidelines are internationally recognized for recognizing and managing concussions in adults and children:

Parachute is a Canadian-leader in injury prevention and provides evidence-based concussion resources:

The Acute Concussion Evaluations (ACE) are a set of concussion assessment tools from the CDC, which include:

a shorter assessment tool for health professionals

for health professionals to give to families of children and teens after a concussion has been identified

for health professionals to give to adults after a concussion has been identified