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Can You Get a Concussion Without Hitting Your Head? Causes and Symptoms of a Non-Head Impact Concuss

It is possible to experience a concussion without a direct impact on the head. A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions can occur due to the brain undergoing rapid acceleration and deceleration within the skull, which can disrupt normal brain function.


It's important to note that a concussion doesn't necessarily involve a visible injury to the head, such as a cut or bruise. Concussions aren't something you can simply leave alone and hope it will go away.


Ever wondered, "Can you get a concussion without hitting your head?" Keep reading to find out more about concussions and the symptoms of non-head impact concussions.


Symptoms of a Concussion

Most people only consider a concussion as a possible injury if they know they hit their head. So how do you know that you might have a concussion even if you had no direct hit to your head?


There can be differences in the symptoms of such a concussion between adults and infants. Infants' brains are still developing, and their symptoms might manifest differently due to their inability to communicate as effectively as adults. This is why it's important that you know how to spot the signs.


Here are some potential differences between adults and infants with concussions:


For Adults

The symptoms of non-head impact concussion in adults are generally similar to those resulting from a direct head impact. These symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness and balance problems

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light and noise

  • Vision problems

  • Confusion and cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems

  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances

  • Changes in mood or behavior

  • Headache

  • Cognitive slowness

  • Difficulty focusing

For Infants

Infants cannot express their symptoms verbally, so it's important for caregivers to watch for subtle signs of a concussion, especially after any kind of forceful movement. Signs might include:

  • Excessive crying or irritability that's unusual

  • Changes in feeding patterns or difficulties feeding

  • Changes in sleeping patterns, such as excessive sleepiness or difficulty staying asleep

  • Changes in responsiveness or alertness, such as increased fussiness or difficulty waking up

  • Persistent vomiting

  • Loss of interest in toys or activities

  • Changes in physical coordination or motor skills

  • Bulging or swelling of the soft spots (fontanelles) on the baby's head

  • Unequal pupil size or abnormal eye movements

Can You Get a Concussion Without Hitting Your Head?

Non-head impact concussions can occur in adults, children, and infants due to various types of sudden movements and forces applied to the body. Here are some common causes of these concussions for each age group:


For Adults

Whiplash injuries, often seen in car accidents, can cause the brain to shift within the skull and result in a concussion. The impact of a car crash can transmit forces through the body and cause the brain to accelerate and decelerate, leading to a concussion. No matter the severity of a car accident, you should see a doctor as soon as possible afterward to ensure you don't have a concussion.

In sports such as football, soccer, or rugby, forceful body collisions can lead to concussions, even if the head itself doesn't sustain a direct impact. Many athletes don't report concussions as they fear they might be pulled from future competitions, but this is incredibly dangerous.

Similarly, physical altercations that involve sudden blows or jolts to the body can also result in a non-head impact concussion. A fall where the body abruptly comes to a stop, such as slipping on ice, can cause the brain to move within the skull, resulting in a concussion.


For Children and Adolescents

Children engaging in sports and activities that involve rapid body movements and collisions, like biking, skateboarding, or playing sports, are at risk for non-head impact concussions.

Playground accidents are also often the culprit of non-head impact concussions. Swings, slides, and other playground equipment can lead to sudden movements that cause concussions.

Similar to adults, car accidents can lead to concussions in children if the body undergoes sudden forces.


For Infants

Infants have weak neck muscles and delicate brains. Shaking a baby can cause the brain to move within the skull, resulting in a concussion. This is known as Shaken baby syndrome.

Shaken baby syndrome can cause long-term brain damage and possibly lead to death. When you shake an infant, their brain can bounce back and forth in their skull. This can cause:

  • Bleeding

  • Bruising

  • Swelling

Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome can include any of the following:

  • Unconsciousness

  • Breathing problems

  • Irritability

  • Vomiting

  • Pale skin

  • Bleeding in the retina

  • Bleeding in the brain

The movement of a car can also cause infants to suffer a concussion. Even when they are strapped in car seats, sudden deceleration or impact can lead to concussions in infants.


Accidental falls can lead to concussions due to the sudden stop of their body's movement. Similarly, sudden movements or impacts while carrying an infant in a carrier or stroller can also cause concussions.


Post-concussion Syndrome

Around 90% of concussion symptoms are temporary, usually clearing up within 10 to 14 days. Nevertheless, some symptoms might last for several weeks or longer. If symptoms persist beyond 3 months, it's classified as a persistent post concussive syndrome.

These symptoms can significantly impact a person's daily life and functioning. It's important to note that not everyone who experiences a concussion will develop post-concussion syndrome.


Recovery After a Non-head Impact Concussion

The treatment and management of a non-head-related impact concussion in adults, children, and infants generally follow similar principles. But specific approaches may vary due to age-related considerations. It's important to note that any suspected concussion, regardless of the cause, should be evaluated by a medical professional for proper guidance on recovery.

Here are some general recovery guidelines:


Rest and Activity Modification

You need sufficient physical rest for the brain to heal. Avoid strenuous activities, especially those that could increase the risk of additional head impacts or jolts.

Limit mentally demanding activities that could worsen symptoms, such as computer use or playing video games.

It might be difficult to simply rest and relax when you feel like you could be doing something, but this slows down your recovery. If you take the time to rest as soon as a concussion happens, chances are you'll be able to get back to your normal life much faster. More than 85 percent of concussions heal fine, but only if it's managed correctly in the first few weeks.


Medical Evaluation

Consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation to confirm the concussion and rule out any more serious injuries. A doctor will consider the symptoms, perform a physical examination, and may order imaging tests if necessary.

Adhere to the recommendations of your healthcare provider regarding rest, activity limitations, and any prescribed medications.


Monitoring

Caregivers should closely monitor the individual, especially children, and infants, for any changes in symptoms, behavior, or responsiveness. If there are any changes, then you should go back to your doctor as soon as possible.


Symptom Management

You can use over-the-counter pain relievers as directed by a healthcare professional to manage headaches or discomfort. If nausea is a symptom, you can also ask your doctor for anti-nausea medications.


Gradual Return to Activities

Once symptoms improve, a gradual return to normal activities can be considered. This should be done slowly with monitoring for any recurrence of symptoms.


Avoid Triggers

Activities that consistently worsen symptoms should be avoided until fully recovered. These triggers are usually only figured out through trial and error. If you notice something is making your symptoms worse, you should earmark it as a possible trigger.

Avoid Driving

Directly after sustaining a concussion, you should avoid driving as it's classified as a strenuous activity. After recovering, you should be able to start driving again if you don't have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention

  • Slower-than-normal processing speeds

  • Slower-than-normal reaction times

Special Considerations for Children and Infants

Caregivers should pay close attention to any changes in behavior, appetite, sleep patterns, or responsiveness in children and infants. Children and infants should be assessed by a pediatrician if there are concerns about their condition. Infants, especially, may require specialized care and monitoring.

Creating a calm and quiet environment can help infants and children recover without additional stress. Be gentle when handling children or infants to avoid jostling their heads.


Steps to Recovery

Nobody knows when a non-head-related impact concussion can happen, but there are certain steps to help individuals properly recover and return to their old selves. These steps include seeing a certified physician, getting a proper diagnosis, tracking any symptoms, and being kind to your body and mind.


All of these can be achieved with the help of Sallie from Power of Patients.

Sallie aims to assist individuals by being an incredibly easy-to-use and free symptom-tracking dashboard. The robust data collection approach includes many symptoms for our users to track.


By using Sallie, individuals are taking the necessary steps for care and further prevention of Traumatic Brain Injuries. Whether or not you are involved in a sport or dealing with any type of brain injury, just know that Power of Patient's Sallie is made for you.

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