Diagnosing a concussion involves a combination of clinical evaluation, symptom assessment, and, in some cases, imaging.
Clinical Evaluation: The first step is usually a thorough medical examination. A healthcare provider will ask about the nature of the injury and the symptoms experienced. They might check the patient’s vision, hearing, strength, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
Symptom Assessment: The individual might be asked to answer questions or fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms. This can help determine the concussion’s severity and impact on daily activities.
Neurocognitive Testing: Some healthcare providers use computerized or paper-and-pencil tests to assess memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Baseline and post-injury scores can be compared (especially relevant for athletes who undergo baseline testing before sports seasons).
Imaging: While standard imaging tests, like CT scans or MRIs, often appear normal in people with concussions, they can be used to rule out more severe injuries like brain bleeding or swelling. However, these tests are typically reserved for cases where more severe brain injury is suspected due to severe symptoms or specific risk factors.
Observation: In some cases, individuals might be observed in a hospital overnight. This is especially common if symptoms are worsening or if there’s a concern about potential complications.
Physiotherapist Evaluation: If post-concussion symptoms persist and involve issues like dizziness or balance problems, a physiotherapist might conduct specialized evaluations to address these concerns and recommend therapeutic interventions.
It’s essential to note that a concussion diagnosis primarily relies on the assessment of symptoms and clinical examination since there isn’t a definitive “test” for it. Therefore, honest and accurate reporting of symptoms by the injured person is crucial.