Concussion Resources for Parents & Family

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

If you think that your child has sustained a concussion, you might see any or all of the following signs:

  • Appears dazed or confused
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets sports plays
  • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality change
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

Also, listen to your child and determine if he/she describes feeling any of the following symptoms:

Physical Symptoms (Body) Cognitive Symptoms (Mind) Emotional Symptoms (Feelings) Maintenance Symptoms (Energy)
Headache Fogginess Irritability (Grumpy) Fatigue (Body is Tired)
Nausea Feeling “Slowed Down” Sadness Drowsy (Mind is Tired)
Vomiting Trouble Concentrating More Emotional than Usual Sleeping Less than Usual
Balance Problems Troubles with Memory Nervous or Anxious Sleeping More than Usual
Dizziness Change in Smell Trouble Falling or Staying Asleep
Sensitivity to Light Change in Taste Change in Appetite
Sensitivity to Noise Ringing in the Ear Change in Energy Levels
Visual Problems
Numbness or Tingling
Neck Pain

If you observe any of these signs, be sure to tell them to your medical provider.


When to seek medical attention after receiving a head injury?

Seek immediate medical attention if your child experiences any of the following signs after the injury:

  • Headaches that Worsen
  • Neck Pain
  • Unusual Behavior Change
  • Weakness/Numbness in Arms/Legs
  • Looks Very Drowsy (Cannot be Awakened)
  • Repeated Vomiting
  • Focal Neurologic Signs (Lacerations, Fractures, Bruising, Raised Skin, etc.)
  • Change in State of Consciousness
  • Can’t Recognize People or Places
  • Increased Confusion or Irritability
  • Slurred Speech
  • Seizures

A CT Scan, MRI, or another imaging method may be administered in the Emergency Department of a hospital for the purposes of either diagnosing or ruling out a structural abnormality to the brain or skull following the injury.


What to watch for in the days & weeks after suffering a concussion?

Mild traumatic brain injuries typically require days or weeks to recover from, depending on gender, age, activity level, concussion history, and many other personal factors. However, recovery from some mild traumatic brain injuries can take months or even years. Every person’s brain and injury situation is unique, and recovery must be tailored to the needs of the individual. While some youth athletes do not feel a disruption in their life after having sustained a concussion, many find that their ability to effectively perform academic and other lifestyle activities (e.g., driving a car) is greatly affected by a concussive incident. In any case, lingering problems following a concussion should be a signal that you should consult with a healthcare professional properly trained in concussion management. As with most medical problems, early detection and treatment of concussion is the best course of action with regard to recovery and prevention of future problems.


What is SCI’s protocol for concussion management?

In many cases, concussion management consists primarily of requiring the individual to rest, and sometimes restricting them from physical and cognitive exertion. During this time of recovery, it is important to avoid the activities that require excessive brain activation, which may include texting, spending a prolonged time on the computer, listening to loud music, and so on.

The experienced, multi-disciplinary staff at SCI believes that the gold standard of concussion management involves four primary steps: Concussion Education and Awareness, Baseline Concussion Testing, Comprehensive Neuropsychological Clinical Care, and an individualized, gradual approach to Return to Athletics and Academics. It is our aim to safely facilitate a return to pre-injury functioning for concussed youth athletes.

SCI’s Concussion Prevention and Intervention Program


Return to Play stepwise approach

Although each concussion is treated on an individual basis, there are a set of Return to Play guidelines that are generally accepted by trained healthcare professionals. The following PDF shows the steps generally taken, once an athlete is deemed “cleared”, to ensure their complete return to play. However, it’s important to remember that these recommendations can differ for each child based on their unique symptomatology.

SCI’s Graduated Return to Play Protocol

Additionally, a graduated approach is also taken for returning a child to his/her academic environments because a concussion also affects the brain’s ability to function, regardless of the nature of the task (i.e., physical, cognitive, emotional, etc.). This can include a slower processing speed, deficits in concentration and memory, and attentional and organizational deficiencies that affect academic performance.

SCI’s Graduated Return to School Protocol


Concussion myths and facts

  • You cannot go to sleep after a concussion: Myth. As long as the symptoms are not getting any worse and new symptoms do not arise during the first minutes and hours immediately following a concussion, it’s recommended that if you need to sleep, you should. This is the brain’s way of beginning the healing process. If you notice any new symptoms or existing symptoms get worse, it is recommended that you seek emergency medical attention.
  • Any healthcare professional can treat a concussion: Myth. Concussions are a complex injury and require a specialized and multi-disciplinary approach to treatment. Not every healthcare professional is fully trained in the empirically-driven methods for assessment and treatment of concussion. In fact, some research surveys purport that only 68% of graduated chief residents were comfortable in managing sport-related concussions. It is a very unique injury, one that often requires the specialized training offered by neuropsychologists and neurologists.
  • Athletes don’t always know when they’ve received a concussion: Fact. Athletes will not always acknowledge that they have sustained a concussion. Consciously, an athlete may underreport their symptoms, minimize the severity of the injury, and/or attempt to play through the pain. Subconsciously, they may even be unaware of how to recognize subtle symptoms, how many previous concussions they’ve actually had (e.g., “Bell Rung”), or fear being removed from play for an extended period of time.
  • Concussions can occur without hitting the head directly: Fact. In the case of whiplash, for instance a forceful blow to the neck or body can cause the brain to accelerate and decelerate within the skull, resulting in axonal shearing or tearing at the site of injury.
  • It is safe for a child to return to play if the symptoms are still present but less intense: Myth. Experts from around the world agree that no athlete should be allowed to return to physical activity until totally asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). After a concussion, the brain needs rest and time to heal, and this cannot happen when it is subjected to physical activity (athletic), cognitive exertion (classroom), and the emotional up’s and down’s that characterize a youth’s behavior patterns (life). Returning a child or teenager to physical and cognitive activities before symptoms dissipate risks further injury, decreases in performance, and potentially debilitative long-term effects such as depression, anxiety, and in some cases, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
  • A concussion only affects the injured individual: Myth. A concussion, just like any TBI, has a profound affect on everyone surrounding them, including parents and family, coaches, academic personnel, and healthcare professionals. Therefore, it is vital to treat concussions from a multi-disciplinary approach. At the Sports Concussion Institute, our aim is to safely and accurately assess, treat, and evaluate the progress of recovery, as well as educate and involve those who make up the social support system of the concussed child.


Ways to advocate for your child’s safety

Effective concussion management begins well before the injury actually occurs. It starts with proper education to athletes, parents, coaches, athletic trainers, teachers, and other people in your child’s life. Not only does this allow the dispersal of new, cutting-edge information to people involved in youth sports, but it also provides a forum for questions to be answered by leaders in the field of concussion management. The Sports Concussion Institute would be happy to partner with your child’s school to help develop a Concussion Management Program that includes educational seminars, baseline concussion testing, and detailed information on the best practices of concussion assessment and treatment.

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