Concussion is very common in New Zealand, with an estimated 24,000 cases every year.

All about concussion

A concussion is a mild brain injury caused by a bang on the head or shaking. The impact on your brain affects your sleep-waking system, and it may take a while for your brain to properly wake up. In the mean time, you may suffer one or all of the symptoms listed in the next section.

You don’t have to fully lose consciousness to suffer a concussion. This happens in less than 20% of concussions.

You’ve received a bang on the head or your brain has been shaken up by something like whip-lash. It may have happened playing sport, falling over, in a car accident, or in a fight. So how do you know if you have concussion?


You may experience one or all of these symptoms immediately after the accident or in the following weeks:

  • Dazed and confused
  • Poor balance and lack of coordination
  • Slow responses
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Forgetfulness, especially about events immediately before and after the accident
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise and light
  • Ringing in ears
  • Loss of consciousness

The symptoms of a concussion are temporary. They do not mean you have permanent brain damage. However, not letting your brain recover properly after a concussion, or receiving repeated concussions, can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

If you think you have a concussion, take it seriously, and see your doctor.


Severe Symptoms

Severe symptoms may be slow to reveal themselves. If you develop any of the following, it is more than concussion, and you need to GO TO HOSPITAL EMERGENCY IMMEDIATELY:

  • Coma (unable to wake up)
  • Seizures
  • Blood or clear fluid coming from ears or nose
  • One pupil bigger than the other
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Lasting confusion
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Weak muscles
  • Problems walking

Anyone can get a concussion, no matter how fit and strong you are.

If you play impact sports, like rugby or boxing, you’re putting yourself more at risk.

Your kids can get concussions as well. Learn about the signs and symptoms of concussion so you can keep them safe too.

Take a look at the signs and symptoms section to help you decide if you have a concussion. If you think you do, then TAKE IT SERIOUSLY and see your doctor.

Your doctor will begin with questions about how you got hurt and your symptoms. Then they might do a physical exam to see what further symptoms you have.

In the case of serious symptoms, your doctor may request a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerised tomography (CT) scan of the brain to check for serious injuries. In the case of seizures, your doctor may also perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) test, which monitors brain waves.

1. Follow your doctor’s advice

When you see your doctor after getting a concussion they can give you an idea of how mild or severe it is and will give you the best advice on how to recover.


2. Stay awake

It is important NOT to to sleep in the first 4 hours. After that, you need a normal night’s sleep.


3. Someone to watch you sleep

If your sleep seems strange in any way, the person looking after you needs to wake you up to check you’re okay, check you can talk, and then let you go back to sleep.

If there’s any worry about the severity of your concussion, they need to wake you every couple of hours and ask you some simple questions. Any difficulty doing that and you need immediate medical help.


4. Get up the next day

To help your brain wake up from its concussion you need to give it enough to do. Try to have a normal day time routine. Don’t spend any more time in bed than you normally would.


6. Don’t drink

Don’t drink alcohol for at least 2 days. After that, alcohol may still slow down your recovery so limit yourself.


7. Don’t drive

Don’t drive for at least 2 days. You could be a danger to yourself or others on the road. You can start driving again when you feel clear headed.


8. Pain relief

Its okay to take paracetamol (like Panadol) if the concussion gave you a headache. But make sure you don’t take anything with aspirin in it (like Disprin) because it can make you bleed more.


9. Be patient

You might be forgetful, clumsy, and unable to concentrate for a few days, weeks, or even months. Try your best and give your sleepy brain time to wake up and recover. Its probably best to put off making any really important decisions for a while.


10. Going back to work

Go back when you’re ready – when you’re able to concentrate, deal with the noise, see properly, make clear decisions, and when it’s safe.


11. No return to sport for 3 weeks

You need at LEAST 3 weeks. It may take longer. You can only return to sport or training when you are symptom free and you have medical clearance. When you do go back, be sensible and do it gradually.

Most people completely recover from their concussions, but it may take months for the symptoms to disappear.

Your symptoms are a sign your brain is still recovering. So don’t put yourself at risk of getting another concussion until you are completely well.

Even though you might feel fine a couple of hours or days afterwards, you should wait AT LEAST 3 WEEKS before you return to sport.

Getting a second concussion before the first concussion is healed can cause a condition known as second impact syndrome (SIS), which can increase the chances of severe brain swelling and can kill you.

Repeat concussions, even after the previous one has healed, can increase your chances of getting permanent brain damage.

Riki's Concussion

Riki Hoeata, 28, suffered a concussion that ended his rugby playing career playing in the NPC. Find out how he turned that around and launched his own business, and read some good common sense advice he’s got to share about recognising and dealing with concussion.

Read More


Here are some useful brochures and resources that you can download for more information on concussion.


If you would like to share your story about having a concussion we’d love to hear from you. Fill in the form and we’ll get in touch.