What is Involved in Concussion Testing?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell
An MRI scan of the head can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.
An MRI scan of the head can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.

A concussion is a type of brain injury that may occur after a fall or a blow to the head and may cause headaches, dizziness, or confusion. Concussion testing typically relies on physical examination as well as the doctor asking questions about what occurred prior to the development of symptoms. In some cases, a CT scan may be ordered so that the doctor can determine if there has been any significant damage to the brain as a result of the concussion.

A person is required to lay down and be very still while a CT scan is being conducted.
A person is required to lay down and be very still while a CT scan is being conducted.

Any blow to the head should generally be reported to a doctor for further evaluation, especially if there are potential signs of a concussion present. Amnesia or confusion are the most common symptoms of a concussion, but there are other signs that may indicate a concussion and should be evaluated by a doctor right away. Initial concussion testing involves the doctor obtaining a complete list of symptoms following the injury. Some of these symptoms may include headache, dizziness, or slurred speech. Some patients may feel extremely fatigued, and nausea and vomiting are also common.

Confusion and dizziness are possible symptoms of a concussion.
Confusion and dizziness are possible symptoms of a concussion.

While a detailed report of symptoms from the patient or caregiver is an important part of concussion testing, a physical examination by a doctor is crucial. In this stage of concussion testing, the doctor will look for enduring signs of confusion or difficulty focusing or concentrating. Vision and hearing tests may also be performed, as these senses can sometimes be affected if there is damage to the brain. These tests often involve checking for increased sensitivity to stimuli such as light or sound. Reflexes, coordination, and balance issues are also checked during this stage of concussion testing.

A doctor will check a patient's reflexes during a concussion test.
A doctor will check a patient's reflexes during a concussion test.

In some cases, additional testing such as a CT scan may be ordered as part of the concussion testing process. During a CT scan, x-rays are taken from a variety of angles so that the medical team can clearly see all areas of the brain. The entire process takes only a few minutes and is completely painless. It is common for a person who is suspected of having suffered a concussion to be admitted to the hospital for close observation to make sure there are no serious complications that need medical attention. Some concussion symptoms may last for several weeks or longer, and any extended or prolonged symptoms should be discussed with a doctor, especially if the symptoms seem to become worse instead of better.

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    • An MRI scan of the head can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.
      An MRI scan of the head can be used to help determine the severity of a concussion.
    • A person is required to lay down and be very still while a CT scan is being conducted.
      A person is required to lay down and be very still while a CT scan is being conducted.
    • Confusion and dizziness are possible symptoms of a concussion.
      Confusion and dizziness are possible symptoms of a concussion.
    • A doctor will check a patient's reflexes during a concussion test.
      A doctor will check a patient's reflexes during a concussion test.
    • If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, they should be taken off the field of play immediately.
      If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, they should be taken off the field of play immediately.
    • Football players who are repeatedly tackled should be regularly checked for signs of a concussion.
      Football players who are repeatedly tackled should be regularly checked for signs of a concussion.
    • A cranial CT scan use x-rays to make cross-sectional images of the head.
      A cranial CT scan use x-rays to make cross-sectional images of the head.