Concussions

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that affects your brain function, including your vision. Symptoms can include headaches and problems with vision, concentration, memory, balance and coordination.
Concussion

Causes & risk factors

Sudden movements can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.2

These sudden movements are commonly caused by:

  • Bumps, blows or jolts to the head.
  • Hits to the body that causes the head to shake rapidly back and forth.
  • Falls or accidents.
  • Sports that involve physical contact with another player or contact with a ball (i.e. head ball in soccer).

Nearly one third of child and adult athletes have sustained previously undiagnosed concussions.1

Symptoms

90% of patients with traumatic brain injuries will suffer visual symptoms. Symptoms are not always noticeable but can impact everyday activities, especially if untreated. These symptoms can include:

  • Double vision.
  • Poor eye tracking ability.
  • Difficulties with shifting gaze quickly from one point to another.
  • Focusing.
  • Loss of binocular vision (eye alignment).
  • Eye strain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Glare or light sensitivity.
  • Inability to maintain visual contact.
  • Headaches.
  • Blurred near vision.
  • Spatial disorientation.
  • Difficulties with balance and posture.
  • Poor depth perception.
  • Memory loss.
  • Poor handwriting.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Lack of attention.
  • Decrease in cognition.

Diagnosis

Doctors of optometry can diagnose and treat visual symptoms of concussion, which can be detrimental to academic, work and sports performance. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect visual signs of undiagnosed concussions and lead to a referral to a concussion care team. Undiagnosed and untreated, concussions can lead to an increased risk of brain damage and injuries.

Treatment

Patients—or caretakers of a patient—that believe they have experienced a concussion should see their primary care physician and follow up with appropriate specialists on their concussion care team, including your eye doctor. Over 70% of your brain is involved with vision, and 80% of all sensory information goes through your eyes. Even mild concussions can have drastic impact on your vision, and only a trained eye care specialist—such as your doctor of optometry—can thoroughly diagnose and treat your vision impairments.

For severe concussion and emergencies, contact emergency services right away.

Prevention

Sports aren't the leading cause of concussions—most are attributed to falls. However, precautions should be taken in all facets of life.

  • All falls cannot be prevented, but an annual, comprehensive in-person eye exam with a doctor of optometry can not only discover unknown brain injuries, but also diagnosis and treat vision ailments that could lead to a fall if left untreated.
  • Proper equipment that protects the head should be worn while participating in sports at all ages.
  • Children and older adults are at an increased risk for concussions. Children should wear a helmet during any physical activity that may incite a fall or blow to the head. Older adults should talk to their care team about balance and any visual issues that may cause them to fall or trip.
  • Wearing the proper safety restraints when driving or riding in a car—as well as a helmet when riding on a bicycle or motorcycle—can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries.

Find more information on Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and concussions by view AOA's fact sheet, "Concussions, Vision & Your Eye Doctor."

Find a member doctor of optometry today for an annual, in-person comprehensive exam.

1 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758800/
2 cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html

Find a Doctor of Optometry
Related Articles

Acanthamoeba

Acanthamoeba is one of the most common organisms in the environment. Although it rarely causes infection, when it does occur, it can threaten your vision.

Accommodative Dysfunction

Accommodative Dysfunction is an eye-focusing problem resulting in blurred vision—up close and/or far away— frequently found in children or adults who have extended near-work demand.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia—also known as lazy eye—is the loss or lack of development of clear vision in one or both eyes.