What Is Concussion

By Dr. Fabijan Cukelj. A concussion is a disturbance in brain function caused by a direct or indirect force to the head. It results in a variety of non-specific signs and/or symptoms and most often does not involve loss of consciousness. 

Concussion should be suspected in the presence of any one or more of the following:

  • Symptoms (e.g., headache), or
  • Physical signs (e.g., unsteadiness), or
  • Impaired brain function (e.g. confusion) or
  • Abnormal behaviour (e.g., change in personality).

Potential signs of concussion?

If any of the following signs are observed after a direct or indirect blow to the head, the athlete should stop participation, be evaluated by a medical professional and should not be permitted to return to sport the same day if a concussion is suspected

  • Any loss of consciousness?- “if so, how long?“
  • Balance or motor incoordination (stumbles, slow / laboured movements, etc.)?
  • Disorientation or confusion (inability to respond appropriately to questions)?
  • Loss of memory: -“if so, how long?“
  • Blank or vacant look
  • Visible facial injury in combination with any of the above

Any athlete with a suspected concussion should be removed from play, medically assessed, monitored for deterioration (i.e., should not be left alone) and should not drive a motor vehicle until cleared to do so by a medical professional. No athlete diagnosed with concussion should be returned to sports participation on the day of injury.

Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be removed from play, and then seek medical evaluation.

Signs to watch for

Problems could arise over the first 24 – 48 hours. The athlete should not be left alone and must go to a hospital at once if they:

  • Have a headache that gets worse
  • Are very drowsy or can’t be awakened
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Have repeated vomiting
  • Behave unusually or seem confused; are very irritable
  • Have seizures (arms and legs jerk uncontrollably)
  • Have weak or numb arms or legs
  • Are unsteady on their feet; have slurred speech

Remember, it is better to be safe.

Consult your doctor immediately after a suspected concussion.


About The Author

Dr. Fabijan Cukelj is an experienced Orthopedic and Trauma Surgeon specializing in treatments of a wide range of orthopedic issues including spine and joint problems and sports injuries. He has extensive training and expertise in physical medicine and rehabilitation, working with patients to restore them to activity through a wide assortment of minimally invasive, non-surgical treatments.