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How to Test for a Concussion

A concussion happens when you least expect it. So, it’s an exceptionally good idea to learn how to test for a concussion. Arming yourself with this knowledge in advance gives you an advantage when something happens to you, your family members, or someone you know.

Of course, if you’re a parent, it is important to know how to test for a concussion to determine if your child has this type of brain injury.

This is also valuable information if you work in athletics, either as a participant or as a coach.

What is a Concussion?

Concussions are a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in which the brain shakes or bounces inside the skull. The cause of the concussion might be anything from injury in a car accident, to unwittingly getting in the way of a baseball bat.

The key point to know, is that even a minor concussion might have long-range adverse effects on your health. This is especially true if there is a history of concussions, in which case there is a possibility of post-concussion syndrome.

However, with early detection and treatment, most patients make full recoveries in a few weeks. Surprisingly, the primary treatment for a concussion is to get lots of physical and mental rest. So, it is well worth your efforts to seek treatment early, to avoid long-term damage.

Interestingly, concussions are the most common type of brain injuries. However, everyone who suffers from a concussion has different symptoms, and needs different protocols for recovery. That’s why you want to be certain to get a diagnosis from your medical professional – without exception. Not doing so puts you at risk for permanent brain damage.

About Post-Concussion Syndrome

If concussion symptoms last longer than is a normal recovery time, your medical professional might tell you that you are suffering from Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS). This has long-term detrimental effects, such as the inability to tolerate more than a small amount of physical, or cognitive activity.

The unfortunate downside of this, is that people often withdraw from their normal activities. Additionally, women, older people, and anyone with a history of concussions has a greater chance of developing PCS.

Tip o’ the hat to MemoryLostTest

What are the Symptoms of a Concussion?

You or someone else might need concussion testing, even if the seriousness of the injury is not immediately apparent. Please note that the earlier you get treatment, the more likely you are to prevent further injury to your brain. Also consider that although some symptoms show up right after the event, some symptoms might take weeks or months to appear.

These are symptoms to look for in yourself and other adults.

  • Concentration or focus difficulties.
  • Confusion or loss of bearings.
  • Dizziness or inability to balance at times.
  • Eyes are overly sensitive to light.
  • Memory issues and abnormal forgetfulness.
  • Mood swings, irritability, or even sadness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sleeping is difficult, or there are obvious changes in your normal sleeping routine.

Tip o’ the hat to MedlinePlus

Symptoms of a Concussion in Babies

The symptoms of concussions in babies might include the following:

  • Bump or bruise on the head.
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping habits are notably different than before the injury.
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of a Concussion in Toddlers

Here is a list of symptoms following a head injury, to look for in toddlers. Toddlers are more able than babies to indicate to you where they hurt. Their symptoms might include the following:

  • Behavioral changes.
  • Excessively crying.
  • Lack of interest in their normal play or other activities.
  • Sleep behaviors change – they might sleep more than usual or less than usual.

Symptoms of a Concussion in Older Children (Ages Range: 2+)

In children from two years of age or older, you will be able to observe even more changes to their behavior. Some of those changes are as follows:

  • Dizziness or inability to balance at times.
  • Blurry or even double-vision.
  • Increases in sensitivity to light.
  • Increased noise sensitivity.
  • Excessive daydreaming.
  • Inability to keep their focus.
  • Confusion or forgetfulness about recent events.
  • Slower than usual to answer questions.
  • Sleeping patterns change – they either sleep too much or too little.

When to Call Your Medical Professional

If there is an injury, it’s not only traumatic for the injured person, it’s also difficult for those helping them. That’s why it is important information to arm yourself with this knowledge in advance of an injury.

Careful observation is the most important tactic when dealing with a head injury. Use the lists above as a guideline for your observations. Then, if your injured person shows any signs of concussion, call your medical professional immediately. Immediate action on your part might stop further, or permanent injury from occurring.

However, call for emergency help right away when the following symptoms occur:

  • Loss of consciousness for more than a few minutes.
  • It’s hard to wake them up.
  • They have a seizure.
  • Any vomiting.

Tip o’ the hat to HealthLine

Ways to Avoid Concussions

Statistics show that most brain injuries are from falls, car accidents, being stuck by or against an object, and physical attacks. However, there are precautions that reduce the chances of traumatic brain injury and concussion. Here are just a few of the precautions that you and your family can take to help avoid concussions.

  • Wear a helmet when participating in ATV activities, riding a bicycle, or a motorcycle.
  • Always wear your seatbelt when in a moving vehicle of any type.
  • Place a non-skid mat or strips in your shower and tub.
  • Check your sports equipment regularly for correct function and fit.
  • Keep your rooms well-lit to help avoid accidents.
  • Keep your floors clutter-free to help avoid tripping accidents.

Tip o’ the hat to MemoryLossTest

What is a Concussion Test?

There are many ways to test for a concussion. With some, you can test immediately in the comfort of your own home, or at the site where the injury occurs.

The purpose of a concussion test is to determine the extent of the head injury. For example, the concussion baseline test, or the sideline concussion test, is for immediate action after athletes suffer injury.

Baseline Concussion Test

This is a method in which brain functioning assessments are taken from an athlete before an injury occurs through their participation in sports. This establishes their “baseline.” The purpose of establishing the individual’s baseline is to allow for test comparison when, and if, a brain injury occurs.  Tip o’ the hat to ShareCare.

Blood Test for Concussion • Brain Trauma Indicator

In 2018, the FDA approved a blood test that helps determine concussions in adults. Much lower in cost than a CT scan and more effective in diagnosing, this gives new hope in catching brain trauma at an early stage. This was to support the FDA’s Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging.

This test works by measuring these two protein biomarkers GFAP and UCH_L1. When injury to the brain occurs, these two proteins elevate and pass through the blood-brain barrier. These elevations are detectable within 15 to 20 minutes of impact. Also, the test is effective up to 12 hours after injury. What’s more, the results are ready within a few hours.

What is not yet know about this new test, is whether it will detect sub-concussive hits. Interestingly, this type of injury occurs more often than concussions, especially among contact sport athletes. However, more research is in progress to determine other outcomes from the blood test for concussion.

Tip o’ the hat to MedlinePlus.

Pupil Test for Concussion

Tests that rely on patient feedback are often incomplete. In effect, the diagnosis depends on the patient’s response. Unfortunately, in many cases, especially athletes, they have an incentive to ignore the symptoms, and get back to their usual activities. After all, they train for a purpose, and one of the greatest purposes is to not let their teammates down.

However, for over ten years, researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have been working on the development of an instrument that measures previously undetectable changes in the response of pupils to light. Many hail this remarkable light test as the ‘holy grail’ for athletes and concussions. This pupil test for concussion does not rely on responses from the athletes. Rather, it gives the medical professional a tool for more accurate diagnoses.

Tip o’ the hat to RNZ.CO.NZ

ImPACT Test for Concussion

If you want to know how to test for a concussion at home, this might interest you. This test is available in bulk pricing for schools and athletic organizations, but is also available in single use form for homes.

This tool uses baseline testing and measures processing speed, visual and verbal memory, along with reaction times. Its purpose is to decide if a patient can safety return to their pre-injury activities.

What’s more, this is a test that is easily taken online in about 20 minutes! So, for a quick concussion test online, this might be useful to you.

Tip o’ the hat to ImpactConcussion.

King-Devick Test for Concussion

The King-Devick Test is a dyslexia detection tool that’s been in use since the 1970s. However, a recent study shows that it also detects concussion injury in athletes. Moreover, it does it better than most of the current tests for concussion.

Interestingly, it’s so easy that someone with no medical training can easily administer this to another person. For instance, if you think your child has a more severe injury than they think they do, you can administer this test to them in a few minutes.

The trick is to give this test before an injury occurs, and record the results as a baseline. Then, if a traumatic brain impact happens, simply give the test again and compare the results.

To take this test, a child reads a series of numbers from left to right as fast as they can from three different printouts. Your job is to time them from start to finish. When injury occurs, you repeat this process and compare the times it takes to complete the tests.

Please note that there is a reason to notify your medical professional, if the child goes over the baseline time by even a few seconds. In fact, studies show an average of 5.2 seconds longer over the baseline time.

Tip o’ the hat to HuffPost.

Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 5 (SCAT5)

The SCAT5 test is a series of questions and is a standardized tool for the evaluation of concussions. This is a tool for physicians and licensed healthcare professionals only. This tool works by asking a series of questions to determine baseline data. You will find it in use as an on-field, and off-field assessment of brain injury.

In one study, SCAT5 is used with the NeurOptics NPi-200 pupillometer to measure high-acceleration head impacts (HHI) as a quicker, and more non-invasive method, of assessing neurological damage.

Standardized Mental Status Testing

The Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) conclusions shows this to be an invaluable tool for the sports medical professional when it comes to detection of a concussion immediately following an injury.

This is not meant to be a stand-alone tool, but is meant to supplement other methods of concussion testing. The purpose of this testing is to determine if the athlete should return to the field after an injury.

Concussion Treatment • What to Expect

Getting the right test also means getting the right treatment for a concussion. Primarily, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding strenuous activities are the healing methods for concussions.

However, you must also rest your mind. That means avoiding mentally strenuous activities such as TV watching, computer use, or even reading. Moreover, avoid video games, texting, or any electronic screen activities.

Additionally, if you are in school, your medical professional might recommend that you shorten your days as much as possible. You’ll also want to take frequent breaks during the day.

Of course, this also means avoiding exerting yourself physically! You’ll be able to resume light physical activities when directed by your physician. This might include stationary bike riding, or light jogging.

The Bottom Line

Even a minor concussion has long-range detrimental effects on the brain if they aren’t treated properly. But, with early detection and treatment, most patients recover within a few weeks.

Concussions happen when you least expect it. So continue to do your research to keep yourself prepared in advance, with the knowledge you need, to provide immediate help in the event of a head injury to you or a loved one.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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