A concussion is a type of brain injury that can be caused by falls, high-impact sports, and other accidents.
While they’re technically mild injuries, concussions sometimes carry more serious risks, including:
- loss of consciousness
- impaired motor skills
- spinal injuries
Since the symptoms of a concussion may vary, your doctor will likely order tests to determine whether your injury caused a concussion. You may also be able to conduct tests on your own at home while you’re waiting for medical assistance.
Keep reading to learn more about concussion tests, as well as when to seek emergency help.
Concussion tests are series of questionnaires that rate your symptoms after a head injury. Online questionnaires ask you to rate the severity of symptoms, such as:
- dizziness or balance issues
- vision changes
- sensitivity to light or noise
- low energy levels
- mental fog, or memory and concentration issues
- irritability or sadness
- sleep problems
Sports medicine professionals also sometimes use more complex checklists to evaluate injured athletes. The most common test is called the post-concussion symptom scale (PCSS).
Like online checklists, the PCSS ranks possible concussion symptoms by their severity to determine if a concussion has occurred, and whether further evaluation is required.
Other concussion tests may evaluate the motor skills of the injured person, in addition to assessing symptoms. For example, the standardized concussion assessment tool (SCAT) evaluates balance, coordination, and other essential motor skills that a concussion could interfere with. SCAT tests are also administered by professionals.
While checklists are a starting point for evaluating the symptoms of a possible concussion, it’s best to see your doctor if you suspect you or a loved one has had a concussion.
A healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms and possibly order medical tests to look at your brain and spine.
- a physical exam
- a CT scan
- an MRI scan
- brain wave monitoring via electroencephalogram (EEG)
Evaluating the injury
Concussion tests are primarily used for determining whether an individual’s symptoms after an injury have affected the brain.
Someone may exhibit the following signs during a concussion:
- slurred speech
- changes to the eyes, including movement and pupil size
- coordination and balance issues
- fluid loss from the nose or ears
- loss of consciousness
- not remembering what happened
Babies and young children can also get concussions. They may exhibit the following:
- drowsiness or fatigue
- reduced activity level
- fluid loss from their ears or nose
Aside from the above symptoms, you may want to use a concussion test if you or someone you know:
- has a serious fall
- is injured in a high-impact sport, such as soccer, football, or boxing
- has a biking accident
- sustains whiplash in a motor vehicle accident
Determining next steps
Concussion tests may be useful for determining any next steps. For example, a loved one who exhibits confusion and difficulty walking after a fall may need further evaluation from a doctor.
Comas, loss of consciousness, and injuries to the back or neck may require emergency medical care.
It’s important to see a doctor if you suspect someone has had a concussion. They can rule out any more serious brain damage.
Babies who sustain head injuries should be evaluated by a pediatrician. Take your baby to the hospital right away if they’re unconscious.
In the case of a coma, call 911 and seek emergency medical attention.
You may also need to seek emergency medical help if the concussion is accompanied by a spinal injury. In such cases, you should avoid trying to move the person’s back or neck and instead call an ambulance for help.
After you’ve been treated for a concussion, you’ll still need to take it easy. Even if you’re discharged from the hospital, your doctor may recommend that you temporarily avoid the activity that caused your initial concussion.
You may also need to avoid high-impact sports and operating heavy machinery.
The timeline for recovery depends on how severe the concussion is.
In most cases, your loved one will recover within
During the recovery period, it’s possible to experience irritation, headaches, and concentration difficulties. Light and noise sensitivities are also possible.
People may also experience emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping.
Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a condition where your concussion symptoms last longer than the normal recovery time.
PCS can last for several weeks, months, or even longer. During this time, you may experience reduced motor skills which can affect day-to-day movements.
At-home concussion tests may sometimes help provide insights into whether you or someone you know has had a concussion. This is especially important if you’ve had a fall, accident, or direct head injury.
Still, it’s important to see a doctor after a concussion, even if you think the symptoms are minor. They can run imaging tests to make sure that you haven’t sustained serious brain or spinal damage.
Always seek emergency medical care if someone has had a coma or a serious neck or back injury.