Signs and symptoms of a concussion

Every concussed athlete will describe their symptoms differently and no two concussions are alike. The key to keeping our athletes safe is being able to recognize and report when a concussion is suspected. As a coach, the signs and symptoms of a concussion can be either observed or reported to you by the athlete or teammate. It is important to know that concussion symptoms will change throughout the athlete's recovery.

Obeservable signs: Signs that can be seen
Physical Cognitive
Poor balance Appears dazed or confused
Loss of consciousness Slowed speech
Vacant stare/glassy-eyed Forgets plays or instructions
Disorientation Slow to respond

Emotional Maintenance
Poor balance Appears dazed or confused
Loss of consciousness Slowed speech
Behavior changes  
Reportable symptoms: My athlete will report to me or to a teammate...
Physical Cognitive
Headache Feeling in a "fog"
Blurred vision Feeling slowed down
Dizziness or "seeing stars" Difficulty concentrating
Nausea Difficulty remembering
Numbness/tingling Easily confused
Sensitivity to light or noise  
Neck pain  

Emotional Maintenance
Not feeling right Feeling tired
Nervousness/anxiety Difficulty sleeping
Irritable Drowsiness
Sad Excess sleep
Lack of motivation Loss of appetite

In a study investigating what kinds of symptoms concussed athletes reported during the first 7 days after injury.

Commonly reported signs & symptoms: [1]

  • Headaches - 75%
  • Difficulty concentrating - 57%
  • Fatigue - 52%
  • Drowsiness - 51%
  • Dizziness - 49%

Recovery and changes in symptoms

As a student athlete recovers from a concussion his or her symptoms will vary in the type of symptoms, the intensity and the duration. Symptoms that are present in the acute stage of a concussion may not be present in the 2-3 weeks following the injury.

[1] Kontos, A.P., et al., A revised factor structure for the post-concussion symptom scale: baseline and postconcussion factors. Am J Sports Med, 2012. 40(10): p. 2375-84.