Concussions often occur in athletes, but experts still know little about this sports injury. That's because of the brain's complexity, and because of the lack of research into concussions.
Concussions are often hard to recognize. A forceful hit to the head or any part of the body that cause a rapid movement of the head may result in a concussion.
Most concussions do not involve loss of consciousness. You don't even have to be hit on the head. A blow to the shoulder that violently snaps the head can cause a concussion.
According to the CDC, 65% of sports- and recreation-related concussions seen in the emergency department are in children ages 5 to 18 years. Symptoms may not happen right away, but include impaired thinking, memory problems, and changes in emotions or behavior. Concussions in children younger than 10 years old are even more difficult to diagnose.
Did you know?
- Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
- Athletes who have at any point in their lives had a concussion have an increased risk for another concussion.
- Young children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults.
Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or may not appear or be noticed until hours or days after the injury.
If an athlete reports one or more symptoms of concussion after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, he or she should be kept out of play the day of the injury and until a physician, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says he or she is symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play.
Although symptoms may not occur right away, common signs include:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Lack of awareness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor attention and concentration
- Double or blurred vision
- Irritability and/or bothered by light or noise
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
If you cannot easily wake a person who has a concussion, they need immediate medical attention.
Concussion danger signs
In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may
form on the brain in a person with a
concussion and crowd the brain against the
skull. An athlete should receive immediate
medical attention if after a bump, blow or jolt
to the head or body he or she exhibits any of
the following danger signs:
- One pupil is larger than the other (if not a normal state for the athlete)
- Is drowsy or cannot be awakened
- A headache that not only does not diminish, but gets worse
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Convulsions or seizures
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Becomes increasingly confused, restless or agitated
- Has unusual behavior
- Loses consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)
- Seek medical attention right away. A physician can determine if a concussion occurred, how serious it is and when it’s safe for your child to return to sports.
- Keep your child out of play. Concussions take time to heal. Don’t let your child return to play until a physician says it’s OK, even if your child insists otherwise. Children who return to play too soon – while the brain is still healing – risk a greater chance of having a second concussion. Second or later concussions can be extremely serious. They can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.
- Tell your child’s coach about any recent concussion. Coaches should know if your child had a recent concussion. The coach may not know about a previous concussion, and there could be serious health risks for your child.
Download the full Parent/Athlete Concussion Information Sheet
Concussion quick reference guide - Please use this quick reference/checklist to determine whether a student athlete suffered a concussion.
Sideline concussion documentation - (with physician release) - This form is for use at the time of injury. It should be used along with a physician's evaluation and/or release form if the athlete is not diagnosed with a concussion.
Graded return-to-participation documentation - (with physician release) - This form is for use following a concussion to guide the athlete's gradual return to play. It should be coupled with a form for final release from a physician.