Concussions are common, especially in contact sports like football. Although they’re treatable, they are serious and difficult to spot.

So what happens to your brain when you get a concussion? What are some of the signs you should watch for? An expert from TRIA Orthopaedic Center explains concussions.

What is a concussion?

Your brain floats in a pool of fluid inside your skull. When you’re hit hard, your brain sloshes against your skull, stretching and damaging brain tissue. Concussions occur when your head, neck or body experience a hard impact.

Concussions can be caused by car crashes or bicycle accidents, but are most common in contact sports like football or soccer. Symptoms, severity and duration vary from person to person. They can change throughout the day and even with different activities.

How do I know if I have a concussion?

Fewer than 10 percent of people are knocked unconscious when they get a concussion.

That can make them tricky to identify because they’re not a “one size fits all” injury. Everybody responds differently. But the first signs often include disorientation, confusion, dizziness and headaches. Others can be any combination of:

  • Memory loss
  • Clumsy movements
  • Slowed thinking or difficulty concentrating
  • Short or long-term unconsciousness
  • Changes in mood, behavior or personality
  • Difficulty sleeping

What should I do if I get a concussion?

“Concussions are a very serious injury, but they’re very treatable,” explained Aimee Custer, a neuropsychologist at TRIA.

Your brain will heal itself. It can take days, weeks and even months to make a full recovery. But most of the time, you heal within seven to 10 days as long as the concussion is managed and you don’t suffer another while healing.