Ouch! I hit my head! Do I have a concussion?

SoccerNot necessarily. A concussion is anything that leads to temporary loss of normal brain function, alertness, or awareness. Concussions usually happen while playing sports, but you can also get one a number of different ways. You can get a concussion simply by tripping and falling, physically fighting, or any other activity that may cause you to hit your head.

Remember in elementary school when they told you “a square is always a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square?” Well, it’s the same idea as… if you hurt your head and passed out or lost consciousness it’s always a concussion, but just because you didn’t pass out, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. The most common known symptom of a concussion is loss of consciousness, but other symptoms can include nausea, (with or without vomiting), headaches, feeling overly tired, having blurred vision ot trouble concentrating, or feeling unsteady or off-balance.

If you hurt your head while playing a sport, you may initially feel embarrassed and want to get right back in the game, but if you have a concussion that’s a really bad idea. You should actually stop doing the activity – even if you feel fine. Make sure your coach knows what happened and how you feel. You should also tell your parent(s) or guardian(s) and see your health care provider for medical attention. Your HCP will probably tell you that concussion symptoms tend to last for a week or so and that you should rest and wait until your symptoms are completely gone before you return to contact sports or other physical activities where you could hurt your head again.

No one is immune to getting a concussion, which is why you need to be careful and take the necessary precautions to minimize your risk. For example; always wear a seatbelt when you’re driving and when you’re the passenger, and always wear your helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, scooter, skateboard, or while roller skating. Seatbelts and helmets will protect you from severe trauma to your head, but there’s still a possibility of getting a concussion – so make sure to get medical attention if you think you might have one. Stay tuned for a new health guide on concussions at youngwomenshealth.org.