How Long Does A Mild Concussion Last?

Reviewed on 3/4/2021

A mild concussion may not need treatment. Most concussions get better on their own over time. A mild concussion may last only hours to seven to 10 days. More severe concussions may last weeks to months.
A mild concussion may not need treatment. Most concussions get better on their own over time. A mild concussion may last only hours to seven to 10 days. More severe concussions may last weeks to months.

A mild concussion may not need treatment. Most concussions get better on their own over time. 

A mild concussion may last only hours to 7 to 10 days. More severe concussions may last weeks to months. Symptoms that persist are called “post-concussion syndrome.”

Home treatment for a mild concussion includes:

  • Rest your body and brain
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Avoid too much physical activity 
  • Avoid activities that need concentration or a lot of attention 
  • Avoid alcohol while symptoms are still present
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by impact to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move around quickly. It can result in confusion, memory loss, headache, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

A concussion may be described as “mild” because it is not usually a life-threatening occurrence, but even “mild” concussions can still have serious complications. 

What Are Symptoms of a Mild Concussion?

Symptoms of a concussion that can occur minutes to hours after injury may include:

Symptoms of a concussion that can occur hours to days after injury may include:

  • Memory problems 
  • Problems walking or talking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inattention
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Vision changes
  • Sensitivity to noise or light

If you get a concussion, someone should stay with you for 24 hours to monitor you for new or worsening symptoms. A person with you should call a doctor right away if they have trouble waking you up.

Also call a doctor if you get a concussion and you:

  • Have a seizure
  • Vomit more than 3 times
  • Have a severe or worsening headache
  • Feel weakness or numbness in part of the body
  • Have difficulty walking or talking
  • Have changes in vision 
  • Lose bladder or bowel control

What Causes a Concussion?

Concussions are caused by bumps, blows, jolts, or impact to the head, or by hits to the body. 

Common causes of concussions include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Sports injuries or hits
  • Bicycling accidents
  • Beatings or other kinds of physical abuse

How Is a Concussion Diagnosed?

A concussion is diagnosed with a patient history, neurological assessment, and mental status testing. 

The patient history includes asking the patient to describe the incident in as much detail as possible to assess any memory loss.  

A neurologic examination includes assessment of:

  • Cranial nerves III through VII (extraocular movements, pupillary reactivity, face sensation, and movement) 
  • Limb strength 
  • Coordination 
  • Gait

Mental status testing may include assessment of: 

Other tools used to evaluate a concussion include: 

  • Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) 
    • A standardized tool for the sideline evaluation of athletes who suffer a head injury
    • Includes measures of orientation, immediate memory, concentration, delayed recall, neurologic screening, and exertional maneuvers 
    • Also includes a graded symptom checklist and a brief neurologic examination, and records the presence of post-traumatic and retrograde amnesia
  • Post-Concussion Symptom Scale and Graded Symptom Checklist
    • Requires the patient to rate severity of symptoms on a 7-point scale (0 = none; 6 = severe) for 15 to 30 symptoms associated with concussion (e.g., headache, dizziness, irritability, difficulty concentrating)
  • Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT5) which includes 
    • A review of subjective symptoms
    • The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)
    • SAC cognitive assessment
    • Evaluation of balance and coordination
  • Westmead post-traumatic amnesia scale (WPTAS) 
    • Takes less than one minute in an emergency department setting 
    • Involves a series of simple questions such as the patient’s name, name of the place, why they are there, month and year, town, age, date of birth, time of day, and pictures for recall
    • Any incorrect response to any question on the WPTAS is considered a sign of cognitive impairment after head injury

Imaging tests used to diagnose the extent of a concussion include: 

What Are Complications of a Concussion?

Complications of concussions include: 

  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • Convulsive motor phenomena
  • Post-traumatic seizures
  • Second impact syndrome
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
  • Depression
  • Mild cognitive impairment

What Is the Staging for a Concussion?

Concussions may be graded according to the severity of symptoms, each stage building on the previous one. 

  • Grade 0: Headache and difficulty concentrating
  • Grade 1: Adds a dazed feeling lasting less than a minute
  • Grade 2: Cloudy senses (feeling dazed) lasts longer, and the patient may have dizziness, amnesia, confusion, ringing in the ears, and/or irritability
  • Grade 3: Loss of consciousness for less than a minute
  • Grade 4: Loss of consciousness for longer than a minute

How Do You Prevent a Concussion?

To help prevent a concussion:

  • Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or when playing certain sports
  • Wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle

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Reviewed on 3/4/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/concussion-in-adults-the-basics?search=concussion&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~81&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/head-injury-in-children-and-adolescents-the-basics?search=concussion&source=search_result&selectedTitle=5~81&usage_type=default&display_rank=5

https://www.uwsp.edu/stuhealth/Documents/Other/Head%20Injury%20-%20Concussion.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/clinicians/resource_center/complications_of_concussion.html