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What is a Concussion or Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

The American Academy of Neurology defines cerebral concussion as an altered mental state that may or may not include loss of consciousness which occurs as a result of head trauma.

Concussion is also known as “mild” traumatic brain injury (MTBI). The vast majority of these injuries are classified as “mild,” yet many can have serious and permanent consequences.

The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine defines traumatic brain injury (TBI) as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Causes by an external force may include any of the following events:

  • The head being struck by an object

  • The head striking an object

  • The brain undergoing an acceleration/deceleration movement without direct external trauma to the head

  • A foreign body penetrating the brain

  • Forces generated from events such as a blast or explosion

  • Other forces yet to be defined


The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine defines “mild traumatic brain injury” as being non-coma type injuries and as being potentially serious and permanent.


The ACRM’s definition establishes that a permanent brain injury can result if any of the following four conditions occur as a result of trauma or accident:

  • Any period of loss of consciousness

  • Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident (amnesia)

  • Any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (disorientation or confusion)

  • Focal neurological deficits that may or may not be transient




(minutes and hours after impact)

  • Vacant stare

  • Delayed motor and verbal responses (slow to answer questions or follow instruction)

  • Confusion and inability to focus attention

  • Disorientation

  • Slurred or incoherent speech

  • Stumbling or inability to walk a straight line

  • Headache

  • Dizziness or vertigo

  • Lack of awareness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Any period of loss of consciousness, coma, or unresponsiveness


(days to weeks after impact) 

  • Persistent low grade headache

  • Light-headedness

  • Poor attention and concentration

  • Lack of awareness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Memory dysfunction

  • Easy fatigability

  • Irritability and low frustration tolerance

  • Distraught, crying for no apparent reason, emotions seem out of proportion to circumstances

  • Memory deficits

  • Intolerance of bright lights or

  • Difficulty focusing vision

  • Intolerance of loud noises, ringing in the ears

  • Anxiety and/or depressed mood

  • Sleep disturbance​

Sports-related concussions are very common. Click here to read more about them.


Please note: The information on this website is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should consult your health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.

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