Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion after a Car Accident

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can be caused in a car crash.  If not properly diagnosed, the effects of a concussion can be devastating.  But one of the problems is that a concussion is not easily diagnosed if you do not know what signs and symptoms to look out for.  If you have been injured in an auto accident and have any of the following signs, you need to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia about the car accident itself
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Fatigue

Other concussion symptoms may not manifest themselves for hours or even days after the car crash.  For example, you might not notice for several days that you are having difficulty sleeping or are more irritable until a few days after the crash.  For purposes of medical diagnosis, it is important to be evaluated by your doctor as soon as you recognize these symptoms.  Some signs of a concussion that might appear days after the car crash are:

  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Taste disorders
  • Smell disorders

The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you or your child experience a head injury, you should see a doctor within a day or two, even if you have not received emergency care.  In an auto accident, you can sustained a blow to the head either from the steering wheel, the airbag, or from striking your head against the headrest or window.

You should seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness longer than 30 seconds
  • A headache that gets worse over time
  • Changes in physical coordination like stumbling or clumsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation

It is possible to sustain a concussion in a motor vehicle crash even if you do not strike your head on anything in the vehicle.  The sudden acceleration and deceleration forces involved in a whiplash-type injury will cause the brain to move around in the head and can cause bleeding in and around the brain or sheering of the brain’s axons.

Concussion Treatment

The most important thing you can do to recover from a concussion is to give your brain a rest. This means limiting activities that require thinking or mental concentration.  Often, your doctor will recommend that you stay out of work or school, limit TV and video games, don’t read or text or use a computer for several days.  As your symptoms resolves, your doctor may release you gradually back to full duties.  It is important to listen to your doctor’s advice with regard to returning to school, work, and exercise.


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