What is a concussion?

A concussion is a minor injury to the brain that briefly disrupts its normal function. A concussion is usually caused by a blow to your head. Even if the blow didn’t knock you out, you may still have suffered a concussion from it.

Most people who take proper care of themselves after a concussion will recover completely. But once you’ve had a concussion, any concussions you suffer after that may be more severe than the first one.

Concussion symptoms

When you suffer a mild concussion, you may:

  • Lose consciousness briefly, or not remember what happened
  • Have a headache
  • Vomit or feel nauseated
  • See stars or flashes of light
  • Feel drowsy or confused

Some symptoms may not show up immediately. If symptoms don’t get better after two weeks, you should tell your doctor.

Concussion causes and risk factors

Sports injuries are a common cause of concussion, as are car accidents.

The most obvious way to get a concussion is when something hits your head. But you could also suffer a concussion if your head is jerked suddenly when another part of your body is jolted.

Diagnosing a concussion

Computerized testing is used to measure brain function, including memory, attention, and reaction time. You can see a concussion specialist to help with returning to sports, the classroom, and your normal life.

Treatment options for concussions

After a concussion, you will most likely be told to rest, avoid sports activities, and take a pain reliever for your headache.

If your head bleeds or your skull is fractured, you’ll probably need to stay in the hospital.

Please note: We made this video before the COVID-19 pandemic. UI Health Care staff follow our most current guidance to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment when seeing patients. For more information about our safety efforts, please visit

Iowa’s Youth Sports Concussion Safety Law

The Iowa Youth Sports Concussion Safety Law dictates that an athlete who shows concussion signs and symptoms cannot return to play until they have received written clearance from a licensed health care professional with training in the evaluation and management of concussions.

Last reviewed: 
June 2018

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