Nearly everyone suffers a bump on the head as the result of a minor or more significant accident at some point in their lives. Fortunately, the majority of these brain injuries are not problematic, but there is the potential for serious problems when a hit to the head results in a concussion. How can you tell when a bump on the head is a concussion?

A concussion involves traumatic brain injury. It’s different from a minor bump on the head because it actually changes normal brain functions. Concussion occurs when the brain impacts the surface of the inside of the skull. Although the brain is protected by fluid that normally prevents it from hitting the inside of the skull, some injuries can result in such an impact. If the head or body is hit hard, or violent back-and-forth shaking occurs, an encasement of fluid is not enough to prevent the brain from hitting the side of the skull.

The impact with the hard, rough surface of the skull can cause damage to brain cells in the form of tears, or fissures. This damage can significantly affect a person’s movement as well as their thinking. People who suffer a concussion may show a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, a headache, nausea, balance problems, slurred speech, disorientation or blurry vision. One eye or one side of the face may droop, or the pupil of one eye may appear dilated.

Concussions are not always easy to identify, especially because symptoms may take hours or even days or weeks to begin to show visibly. Sometimes a concussion causes a person to lose consciousness when the injury occurs, but this not always the case. If a person does lose consciousness following a head injury, be particularly aware of any signs of concussion.

Anyone who is showing any signs of a concussion needs medical care right away. Even in the case of ‘mild’ concussion, prompt care can help with pain management and reduce the risk or occurrence of brain swelling. It’s far better to err on the side of caution when it comes to possible concussion and seek medical care rather than take a ‘wait and see’ approach.

In certain cases, even a person who has no symptoms at all and ‘seems fine’ should be checked out, even for ‘a little bump on the head.’ Anytime a head injury occurs in someone who takes blood thinners such as Coumadin, medical care is necessary due to the risk of brain bleeding.

If an individual has suffered a head bump previously and another injury occurs (as perhaps in sports play), have it checked out immediately. Second concussions are exponentially worse and present far more risk for very serious brain damage or even death.

If it’s determined that you or someone close to you has suffered a concussion, pay careful attention to the possibility of ongoing symptoms. Even mild pain or uncomfortable symptoms should be attended to by an experienced medical care professional such as a functional neurologist. In the case of stubborn ongoing symptoms that aren’t well managed by traditional medical care, a functional neurologist may be an excellent source for the type of therapy concussion patients typically respond to very well.