Learn how to prevent and deal with concussions in young athletes.
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
A concussion, particularly common in kids who participate in sports, is a brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head. Even when they seem mild, concussions can be serious. It is therefore important to know how to recognize the signs of a concussion and take the necessary steps to seek treatment.
Signs of Concussions
In sports, concussions may be referred to as a "dinger" or "getting your bell rung." Signs of concussions may show up immediately, or it may take weeks after an injury for the symptoms to emerge.
When young athletes experienced a blow to the head in the past, it was not always considered to be serious. But researchers are now finding that no concussion should be taken lightly.
"Our knowledge about concussions is expanding rapidly. The traditional idea was that 'getting a bell rung' was not serious, but those symptoms can be a sign of a concussion and need to be evaluated," says Steve Broglio, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who studies concussions in high school athletes.
In fact, one recent study of 40 former college athletes found that those who had had a concussion in early adulthood were more likely to have declines in their attention, memory and some kinds of movement more than 30 years later.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your child may have a concussion if he or she had a bump to the head and is experiencing any of the following signs:
- Dazed or stunned appearance
- Clumsy movements
- Delay in answering questions
- Loss of consciousness
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Headache or sensation of pressure in the head
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Vision problems
- Light or noise sensitivity
- Feeling as if in a fog
- Feeling "off"
Children who are experiencing signs of concussions should get immediate medical help. Contact a medical professional who can properly diagnose your child and offer instructions about when it is safe to return to sports. You should also inform your child's coach about the concussion.
Keeping Kids Safe
For children who play sports, it is important to take steps to prevent concussions from occurring in the first place. Teach your child the following prevention methods:
- Follow rules. Make sure your child follows the coach’s rules, as well as the rules of the game.
- Be a good sport. Practicing good sportsmanship can help keep all the children on the field safe.
- Wear protective gear. Wearing the proper protective equipment (helmets for football, for example) is an essential part of sports safety. The equipment should be regularly maintained and replaced if it becomes damaged or worn out.
- Know the symptoms. Teach your children about the symptoms of a concussion, so they will know when they or someone else on the field may have one.