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Concussion in adults

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. It can be caused by a fall or a blow to the head or body. It can also be caused by another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. These can cause the brain to get bruised if it hits the inside of the skull hard enough.

You do not have to be knocked out to get a concussion.

Most people who have a concussion recover completely, though this can take weeks.

Symptoms of a concussion

Symptoms may include:

Treating a concussion

Rest is the most important part of an early recovery from a concussion.

For the first 2 to 3 days after any head injury, you should rest your brain. This should include avoiding screens, loud music and noisy environments as well as resting your body.

After this time, you will need to gradually get back into your usual activities. This includes socialising, work or school and exercise.

You will need to pace yourself and rest when you need to. If your symptoms get worse or you notice new concussion symptoms, this could be a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard.

Sometimes, it is hard to get the balance right between activity and rest. Just as doing too much is not helpful in the early weeks after a concussion, so is not doing enough and resting too much.

Avoid alcohol and other drugs as they will delay your recovery.

Treating specific symptoms


It is normal to be more tired after a concussion. Even a little effort may make you very tired at the beginning, and it can take longer to recharge after a concussion.

Soon after a concussion, it can be helpful to rest in a quiet, place free of distractions. For example, rest on your bed with the curtains pulled. Limit screen time such as TV and other devices and do not have music playing in the background.

You may benefit from scheduled rest breaks or a daytime sleep.

After a few days, it is important to slowly reduce the time you spend resting and expose yourself to more distractions. Gradually increase your activity level and expect that things will take you longer than usual to finish.

Memory and concentration

Memory and concentration problems can be a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Rest and pacing yourself will help.

Writing things down and using your phone or diary are excellent ways of coping with temporary memory difficulties.


Headaches are part of the normal recovery process. But they can mean you are trying to do too much. Your headache will probably disappear if you take a break and relax.

If you continue to have headaches, you should temporarily shorten your workday or daily routine.

Neck problems can contribute to headaches. See your general practice team or physiotherapist if you think this is a problem.

Dizziness and balance problems

These problems usually only last a few days then get better by themselves.

If the symptoms last longer, your general practice team may prescribe medication to help or refer you to a vestibular physiotherapist.

Vision problems

You may notice some increased sensitivity to bright light or loud noise, particularly if you have headaches. This will improve with time especially if you can avoid worrying about it.

You may also notice some changes in your vision following a concussion. Again, this often gets better with time. But you should see your general practice team if this persists. Your general practice team may refer you to a physiotherapist or eye specialist for further assessment. This will depend on the type of issues you are experiencing.


If you are a sports person, you will need to stand down for at least 3 weeks.

Many sports such as rugby have specific programmes of gradual return to play that you will need to follow.


If you have concentration or visual problems, you may need to stand down from driving. Your general practice team will advise when you are safe to drive again.

Getting help with a concussion

If you have ongoing symptoms or are concerned about your symptoms, see your healthcare provider.

You may be referred to a specialist concussion service. They have a multidisciplinary team who can provide help in your recovery. This includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, doctors and nurses.

ACC provides funding for these services.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created April 2024.


See also:

Community groups for communication difficulties

Conserving energy

Speech and communication difficulties

Tips for managing memory loss

Page reference: 1340128

Review key: HIBRI-52920