Concussions 101

What is a concussion? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). They are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly. This movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. The best way to visualize what happens to the brain is like shaking a bouncy ball inside of a jar. This injury can cause numerous problems.

CT Scan and MRIs do NOT show concussions 99% of the time. These tests are only used on occasion to rule out more severe brain injury (subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma). The take home message is that a clean scan does not mean the athlete does not have a concussion, so we need to know what symptoms to look for.

Symptom List:

  • Physical signs- headache, loss of consciousness, amnesia, nausea, vomiting, balance problems, dizziness, visual problems, fatigue, sensitivity to light/noise, numbness/tingling
  • Cognitive impairment- slowed reaction times, difficulty concentrating or remembering, feeling slowed down, feeling mentally foggy
  • Emotional impairments: irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervousness, anxiety
  • Sleep disturbance- drowsiness, sleeping more/less, troubles falling asleep

1.6-3.8 million people sustain concussions each year in the US (56.4 per 100,000). Concussion testing preseason is so important for our athletes! If an athlete sustains a concussion these baseline tests can be used to find the athletes deficits and better treat the injury to get the athlete back on the field as fast as possible.


Contact Dr. Katie Varga, PT, DPT at for questions regarding concussion testing for individual athletes and teams!