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Head Injuries: When Is Immediate Hospitalization Required?

Signs of deteriorating mental status may indicate serious, life-threatening brain injury

Injured football playerRegular post-concussion monitoring is essential in the first 24 to 48 hours after injury to check for signs of deteriorating mental status that may indicate a more serious brain injury requiring immediate hospitalization.

An athlete should be immediately taken to the hospital for evaluation (including neuroimaging) if he:

  • Has a headache that gets worse
  • Is very drowsy or can't be awakened (woken up)
  • Can't recognize people or places
  • Experiences repeated vomiting
  • Behaves unusually, seems confused or is very irritable
  • Experiences seizures (arms and legs jerk uncontrollably)
  • Has weak or numb arms or legs
  • Is unsteady on his feet; or
  • Has slurred speech

Source: Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2)

Revised and updated September 16, 2011

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