Recognizing a Concussion: Symptoms Aren’t Always Severe

Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of injury, hospitalization and death in Virginia.

Recognizing and diagnosing a concussion accurately should be something that happens in a hospital emergency room, but the gold standard right now for a concussion is a physician’s diagnosis, says Dr. Jacob Resch, Assistant Professor, Dept of Kinesiology, University of Virginia.

“Which means the diagnosis is based on a physician’s experience and their expertise. When I was going through my undergraduate education, and we learned about concussion, we were told that loss of consciousness, post-traumatic amnesia, or memory issues, are the hallmark signs. That’s certainly no longer the case,” says Dr. Resch.

He makes these key points about concussion:
Loss of consciousness and post-traumatic amnesia only occur in 10 percent to up to 20 percent of cases of concussion. They are among the rarest symptoms of concussion.

In the majority of cases, people with a concussion may only have a headache, or may have a visual disturbance, or they may have difficulty balancing, be unsteady on their feet, and maybe nauseous. They might have difficulty looking at bright lights. They might have sensitivity to different loud sounds, or just the sounds with everyday life.

Beyond physician diagnosis, there are also multiple assessment tests used today to identify whether a person has suffered a concussion, says Dr. Resch.