Any sudden blow to the head, if strong enough, can cause a concussion, whether it’s from a contact sport, for example, or a car accident or a fall.

Although most concussions are mild and the majority of people recover quickly and completely, concussions should be taken seriously,” says Scott Freedman, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury that can leave you with acute and sometimes lingering symptoms.”

Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness or seeing stars
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Head pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Extreme drowsiness

After a head injury, make sure that you don’t return to a sports game or continue driving until you seek medical treatment to rule out a concussion.

“When a patient arrives in the Emergency Department with a head injury, we administer neurological evaluations that include obtaining a thorough history and testing memory, balance and reflexes to determine if a concussion occurred,” Dr. Freedman says.

If a concussion is confirmed, the patient must “allow for recovery and monitoring and be sure to seek a follow-up examination with a primary care physician or a specialist before returning to full physical activity,” Dr. Freedman explains.

He also notes that once cleared, the patient should return to exercise gradually to minimize the risk of a second concussion or other injury.

It’s not always possible to prevent a concussion, but Dr. Freedman suggests two ways to minimize risk:

Wear protective gear while playing contact sports, biking, skiing or doing other physical activities that have higher risk for head injuries.

Drive safely. This includes wearing a seat belt, properly using booster seats and staying focused on the road by not texting while driving.