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Ways to Get a Concussion Without Hitting Your Head

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Posted on January 5, 2023

Concussions are the most common form of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), occurring when the brain bumps against the inside of the skull due to a force that causes it to shake and twist. The delicate brain tissue swells and suffers a varying amount of damage with symptoms that can be mild, moderate, or severe. Not only are all concussions serious, but repeated concussions, such as from sports injuries, can lead to permanent damage.

Most concussions occur through car accidents, sports injuries, or slip-and-fall accidents, but you might be surprised to learn that they don’t always occur as the result of a blow to the head. Recognizing the signs of a concussion and understanding that they aren’t always caused by a direct blow to the head can help injury victims to seek medical attention in a timely manner.

How Can You Get a Concussion Without Hitting Your Head?

Sometimes people ignore certain symptoms after an accident, not connecting the symptoms they’re experiencing with a concussion because they did not experience a blow to the head.  Because the true cause of a concussion happens inside the skull when the brain — which is a soft, gelatinous organ — shakes, twists, or bumps against the bony inner layer of the skull, it can happen even without hitting your head. Other causes of concussions include the following:

  • Whiplash and other sudden, high-impact motions cause the brain to bump inside the skull
  • Jarring falls
  • High-impact sports with sudden stops, crashes, tackles, and collisions, even if there’s no contact with the head (1.7 to 3 million sports-related concussions happen annually, with the majority in football)
  • Explosions and nearby concussive blasts
  • Assaults or abuse with shaking, hits, and powerful pushing

Feeling dazed, dizzy, or experiencing visual disturbances immediately after sudden jarring motions may indicate a concussion. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience any of the symptoms of a concussion after a violent collision, fall, or shaking episode even if there was no impact to the head itself.

Symptoms of a Concussion

It’s important to know the symptoms of a concussion even if you didn’t sustain a head injury. Symptoms that could indicate concussion include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Seeing “stars” or bursts of light
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of concentration
  • Mood changes

Some of these symptoms may be persistent for weeks after the initial concussion (Post-Concussion Syndrome). Repeated concussions during youth may cause a degenerative brain disease later in life known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Common Concussion Myths and Misconceptions

Besides the persistent myth that concussions only come from direct blows to the head, other misconceptions may prevent concussion victims from recognizing their symptoms and seeking help. Some common misconceptions about concussions include:

  • It’s only a concussion if you lost consciousness— in fact, most concussion victims do not lose consciousness
  • Kids don’t get concussions
  • It’s normal to see “stars” or flashing lights after a hard knock during sports or following a hard fall
  • You shouldn’t let someone with a concussion sleep for 24 hours— this was once the recommendation, but it’s now understood that sleep is essential for brain healing

It’s important to remain vigilant for signs of a concussion after any accident or injury, even if you didn’t experience a blow to the head. Concussions require treatment and monitoring to maximize the chance of a complete recovery.