Symptoms of a Concussion in Children

Football Collision

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A concussion is a type of brain injury that sometimes occurs during many high school sports, including baseball, basketball, football, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, volleyball, and wrestling. It is important to keep in mind that a concussion can happen in almost any sport in which a collision can happen, so even a tennis player can get a concussion if he trips, falls, and hits his head on the tennis court.

Symptoms of a Concussion

If an athlete has a concussion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coaches, parents, or other students might notice that the injured player:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment
  • Forgets plays
  • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can't recall events prior to hit
  • Can't recall events after hit

Or the athlete himself might report the following symptoms if he has a concussion, including a:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Feeling foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion

Although student-athletes often feel pressure to play through the pain, it is important to remember that a concussion is a brain injury and that all concussions are serious.

Other important facts about concussions include that they:

  • Are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head
  • Can occur even if the athlete doesn't lose consciousness
  • Can happen in any sport
  • May not cause symptoms until days or weeks after the injury
  • Can cause brain swelling, permanent brain damage, or even death, if an athlete has a second concussion before fully recovering from a first one

Concussion Management

If you think that an athlete has a concussion, according to the CDC Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports program, you should:

  1. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your teen to return to sports.
  2. Keep your teen out of play. Concussions take time to heal. Don't let your teen return to play until a health care professional says it's OK. Athletes 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 very serious. They can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your teen for a lifetime.
  3. Tell all of your teen's coaches about any recent concussion. Coaches should know if your teen had a recent concussion in ANY sport. Your teen's coaches may not know about a concussion your teen received in another sport or activity unless you tell them. Knowing about the concussion will allow the coach to keep your teen from activities that could result in another concussion.
  4. Remind your teen that it's better to miss one game than the whole season.
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By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.