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Comprehensive Guide to Concussion Treatment: Immediate First Aid and Recovery

treating a concussion

Table of Contents

Sharon McCulloch

A concussion presents a serious medical emergency. Despite the fact that healthcare professionals often classify them as a minor traumatic brain injury, they can have incredibly adverse and long-lasting effects. Even the smallest concussion is something to be avoided and requires immediate medical treatment.

When it comes to concussion treatment, knowing first aid is vital. Due to the seriousness they present, treating a concussion isn’t something you can just take a stab at. This doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help while you wait for professional medical assistance to arrive. It just means that knowing and being qualified in first aid is essential for everyone; you never know when or where someone is going to be affected by a concussion.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion falls under the category of head injuries. They are a mild traumatic brain injury caused by an impact to the head which causes the brain to move about in, and potentially impact with, the skull, with the distinct possibility of leading to severe injury, a disruption to normal brain function. While most concussions are only temporary and not such a serious injury, a more serious brain injury can not only affect mental function, but can lead to fatal brain swelling.

Identifying a Concussion

severe headache

There are many common concussion symptoms, so it’s vital to know the range of signs which might indicate that a concussion has occurred. The most common symptoms of concussion are:

  • Lose consciousness
  • Persistent and severe headaches
  • In ability to concentrate
  • Loss of memory
  • Loss of balance balance or coordination
  • Increased irritability
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to mild stimuli

It should be apparent that many of these concussion signs are not only common, but are mild discomforts that many people experience for no reason. As such, if you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms it is also vital that you ask if the person affected has recently experienced anything which may have triggered a concussion, such as taking a forceful impact to the head.

Possible Causes

There are many things which can cause a concussion, and when these events happen in close proximity to the presentation of any of the above symptoms it becomes highly likely that a concussion has occurred. The most common causes of concussion include falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and assault.

While any kind of impact to the head can result in a concussion, among the above listed causes falls are the most common trigger, particularly among the elderly and young children. Concussion in sport is the next most common cause despite being easily preventable by wearing a helmet and the correct safety gear.

Treating a Concussion

Assessing the airway and breathing check

Treating head injuries, even concussions, is simple when you’ve been trained in how to properly provide first aid. While it’s not recommended you try to treat a concussion without having undertaken training first, sometimes life will give you no other option while you wait for emergency services to arrive. If this happens, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Check the Scene and the Person: Ensure the scene is safe and check for loss of consciousness.
  2. Assess Airway and Breathing: If the person is unconscious, check their airway and breathing.
  3. Avoid Moving the Person: Do not move the person unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Check Mental Awareness and Eyes: Assess the person’s mental awareness and check their eyes.
  5. Monitor for Vomiting and Keep Awake: Watch for vomiting and keep the person awake to monitor their condition.
  6. Seek Medical Attention: Always seek medical attention for a head injury, as symptoms can worsen or reappear later on.

Seek emergency medical help immediately if the person displays any of the following symptoms:

  • Becomes very sleepy
  • Behaves abnormally or has speech that does not make sense
  • Develops a severe headache or stiff neck
  • Has a seizure
  • Has pupils of unequal sizes.

While most concussions are not life-threatening, it is crucial to provide immediate first aid and seek medical attention to ensure the person’s safety and well-being. Don’t take the risk, ensure that if someone you know has a concussion that you’re fully trained and qualified to provide first aid.

Concussion Recovery

lying a dark room recovering from concussion

The time frame for concussion recovery varies, but approximately 80% of concussions resolve over seven to 14 days, with an average of 10 days. However, some individuals may take longer to recover and a more serious concussion can last for months or longer. Factors which might delay recovery include a history of previous concussions, neurological or mental health disorders, and social or environmental stressors. Younger children and older adults also tend to take longer to recover.

When recovering from a concussion, it is important to follow a gradual return to activity plan. After a period of rest, gradually increasing thinking and physical activity should be encouraged. Complete rest, such as lying in a dark room without any stimuli, is not recommended. Instead, it is advised to pace yourself, get an ordinary amount of rest, and gradually increase activity over the course of recovery.

During this time it’s essential to avoid activities with a high risk of exposure to another head impact. Additionally, it’s important to eat healthy, take breaks, and avoid alcohol while recovering from a concussion. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, it’s crucial to seek medical attention. The recovery process is individualised, and management should be directed by a healthcare provider.


Prevention is always better than treatment or cure. While random accidents are hard to avoid, when it comes to sports and play there are several measures can be taken to prevent concussions from occurring in the first place, including:

  1. Proper Technique and Limiting Contact: Teach athletes proper techniques to avoid hits to the head and limit the amount of contact during practices, such as no full-speed head-on blocking or tackling drills and limiting the amount of practice time that includes scrimmages or full-speed drills.
  2. Use of Helmets and Protective Equipment: Ensure the use of age- and size-appropriate helmets and other protective gear that is properly fitted and certified for use during high-risk activities such as sports and recreational activities.
  3. Safety Measures in Sports and Recreation: Follow safety rules for each sport or recreational activity, reduce exposure to head impacts, and increase coach training and rule changes to reduce the risk of concussions.
  4. Education and Awareness: Educate athletes, parents, coaches, and caregivers about the signs and symptoms of a concussion, as well as the importance of reporting and properly managing head injuries.

Get Training for Concussion First Aid

If someone nearby has a concussion, it can be tempting to step in and offer whatever help seems appropriate. But if you haven’t taken advanced first aid training, then what seems like the right thing to do might make things worse. Don’t risk it, take first aid training so that when the day comes when you find yourself in a position to help someone with a concussion you know exactly how to help them recover. You might even save their life.

The content on this website offers general insights regarding health conditions and potential treatments. It is not intended as, and should not be construed as, medical advice. If you are facing a medical emergency, dial 000 immediately and follow the guidance provided.

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