What Should I do If a Concussion Occurs?

People with a concussion need to be seen by a healthcare provider. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as you can if you think you or someone you know has a concussion. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your concussion and determine if you need to be referred to a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon, or specialist in rehabilitation (such as a speech pathologist) for specialized care. Getting help from trained specialists soon after the injury may improve recovery.

You may consider using telemedicine or telehealth services if you are unable to visit a healthcare provider in person. Telemedicine and telehealth servicesexternal icon connect patients and their healthcare providers through a phone or video chat. Through telemedicine or telehealth services, patients may get checked for concussion symptoms and get recovery tips without needing to travel to a medical office or hospital. Your healthcare provider can identify whether these services are available to you.

Patients experiencing concussion danger signs should seek care right away at an emergency department.

Concussion in Sports and Recreation

If a concussion occurs during sports- and recreation-related activities, implement the HEADS UP action plan.

Athletes with a concussion should never return to sports or recreation activities the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says they are symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play.

What to Expect When You See a Health Care Professional

While most people are seen in an emergency department or medical office, some people must stay in the hospital overnight. Your health care professional may do a scan of your brain (such as a CT scan) or other tests. Additional tests might be necessary, such as tests of your learning, memory concentration, and problem solving.  These tests are called “neuropsychological” or “neurocognitive” tests and can help your health care professional identify the effects of a concussion. Even if the concussion doesn’t show up on these tests, you may still have a concussion.

Your health care professional will send you home with important instructions to follow. Be sure to follow all of your health care professional’s instructions carefully.

If you are taking medications—prescription, over-the-counter medicines, or “natural remedies”—or if you drink alcohol or take illicit drugs, tell your health care professional. Also, tell your health care professional if you are taking blood thinners (anticoagulant drugs), such as Coumadin and aspirin, because they can increase the chance of complications.

See Getting Better, for tips to help aid your recovery after a concussion.