IMAGE Athletes of all ages throw themselves head first into their sport and sometimes this can lead to a bump to the head. Most injuries will pass without major issues but, it’s important to know whether an injury is just a bump or a true concussion. Certain symptoms will suggest medical care is needed. More severe injuries will also need a longer recovery to make sure your child has fully healed and to prevent further injury.

Know the Signs

Any bump to the head can cause pain, a bump, or even bleeding. With a concussion, the hit to the head was hard enough to cause the brain to bounce or twist inside the head. This movement of the brain can cause changes. If your child has a concussion, he or she may:

  • Complain of “not feeling right” after the injury
  • Have difficulty playing his or her assigned role on the team
  • Seem confused
  • Speak slowly
  • Move clumsily
  • Have a sudden change in mood, behavior, or personality
  • Be unable to remember what happened
  • Lose consciousness

A more severe head injury may also cause the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Muscles that shake or twitch
  • One pupil that is larger than the other
  • A severe and worsening headache
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty walking

**A child showing these symptoms requires immediate medical care.

Responding to a Concussion

If you suspect that your child has had a concussion, the most important thing you can do is to remove your child from play right away. Contact your child’s doctor if your child has minor symptoms or go to an emergency room if the symptoms are severe.

Most youth sports now follow laws that state that an athlete who may have a concussion should be removed from play right away and must stay out of play for at least 24 hours. Children should only return with the permission of a healthcare professional.

Getting the OK to Return to Play

The symptoms of a concussion can last days, weeks, or even months. Talk to your child’s doctor about when he or she can return to sports. In most cases, a concussion can be treated with initial rest until a doctor gives the okay. Share this information with your child’s coach.

The return of any concussion symptoms is a sure sign for your child to stop playing and seek follow-up care right away. This is especially true of athletes who participate in contact sports. In these sports, a second head injury could lead to serious damage to a child’s brain, such as cognitive impairments and long term symptoms.

Concussion Prevention

Concussions can be difficult to prevent, especially in contact sports. To decrease the chance of a concussion:

  • Make sure your child’s coaches are properly trained and/or certified
  • Encourage your child follow safety rules, especially those regarding excess force
  • Teach your child about concussion symptoms and how to report them to you, coaches, and medical staff
  • Have your child wear head protection when participating in high-risk activities, such as:
    • Playing a contact sport, such as football, soccer, or hockey
    • Using bikes, skates, scooters, and skateboards
    • Catching, batting, or running bases in baseball or softball
    • Skiing or snowboarding

If your child has a concussion, follow the doctor’s instructions on when to return to sports. He or she is the only person qualified to evaluate your child’s symptoms. A repeat concussion may take longer for your child to return to play, but your child will be able to play many years into the future.