How do you know if you have a concussion after a car accident?

man sitting down holding his head in pain after concussion from car accident

Did you know that falls and car accidents are the two most common causes of mild traumatic brain injuries in Canada? 

If you’ve experienced a car accident, you know it can be a harrowing experience. Between trying to deal with insurance, your vehicle, and your injuries, it’s easy to walk away and not realize you may have a concussion. But a brain injury isn’t like a scrape or a bruise – it won’t just go away on its own. And if not addressed early, an undiagnosed concussion can have lasting effects and consequences on your health. 

We asked our in-house Registered Kinesiologist, Sarah Nichols, B. Sc.HK., R.Kin, what common symptoms of a concussion from a car accident are and what to do.

Concussion Symptoms from a Car Accident

Some common symptoms include confusion, memory loss, headache, dizziness, nausea, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling not quite like yourself, confusion, light and/or noise sensitivity, anxiety and mental fogginess. 

If you notice these symptoms, note them down right away, and when they appeared, follow the steps below, and contact a concussion rehabilitation specialist as soon as possible.

What to do if you have a concussion from a car accident:

  1. Limit visual stimuli for the first 48-72 hours. This means no screens, like your smartphone, laptop, or TV. Try to avoid reading too as it can be quite a strain on your brain.
  2. Go for walks if it does not exasperate your symptoms and spend time with friends/family in a quiet environment. Draw curtains if it’s too bright and close windows if it’s too loud. 
  3. Get diagnosed with a medical professional as soon as possible if you are experiencing symptoms. 
  4. Consult with a concussion rehabilitation specialist as soon as possible.

Consulting a concussion rehabilitation specialist right away allows for early intervention. The benefit of this is being able to start the healing and recovery process before new compensatory neurologic pathways have been formed. When a brain injury occurs, just like any other injury the body tries to find a work-around. For concussion, this means forming new neurologic pathways to execute a task. 

When we wait too long to begin concussion rehabilitation we are tasked with undoing those new pathways and rebuilding old ones. This is similar to when someone sustains a knee injury and they don’t seek therapy right away. They will walk around with a limp eventually leading to hip and low back problems. Now instead of just rehabilitating the knee, we must address the back and hip as well, prolonging the recovery period. 

What not to do when you have concussion symptoms from a car accident:

If you’re experiencing concussion symptoms, try to avoid visually stimulating activities like watching TV, going on your phone, reading, and driving, especially at night. Don’t isolate yourself – you need support from your friends and family. And definitely don’t ignore symptoms – ignoring symptoms can make your brain injury worse and have lasting negative effects.

Common myths about concussion symptoms: 

Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of common household myths related to concussions and their remedies. We debunk the myths with input from our Registered Kinesiologist:

  • Myth #1: “Sit in a dark room alone until symptoms go away.”

    Truth: you should socialize in quiet environments with your friends and family to avoid mental health disturbances and start rehabilitation ASAP instead.

  • Myth #2: “Get woken up every 1-2 hours throughout the night.”

    Truth: this is only if we suspect a brain bleed, otherwise quality sleep is very important for allowing the brain to rest and heal.

  • Myth #3: “Do not participate in physical activity.”

    Truth: in a controlled and medically supervised environment, exercise can help to regulate heart rate variability and help to increase delivery of fresh nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the brain after the initial 48-72 hours of rest. 

If you just experienced a car accident and are experiencing concussion symptoms, make sure to get 48-72 hours of rest in a quiet environment, gently socialize with your friends and family, and see a medical professional as soon as possible. 

At Revival Rehabilitation Centre, we are here to help you recover from a car accident with our team of registered medical professionals, personalized care and rehabilitation programs, and your wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. We also deal with your insurance to make sure your medical care is covered and so you don’t have to experience additional stress.