Studies show that 5 to 10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion during any given sports season. Despite these numbers, concussions remain largely misunderstood and misdiagnosed. For example:
Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
Athletes who have had a concussion at any point in their lives 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.
Concussions are the most common sports-related brain injury among those ages 15-24.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that causes an alteration in brain function.
During a concussion, rotation or shaking of the brain occurs that causes tiny areas of damage throughout the brain. This causes a release of chemicals in the brain that can lead to worsening symptoms over the following three days. Imaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs can be normal initially; however, many different areas of the brain may still be affected.
Concussions can occur from many different types of injuries, both on and off the playing field. While bumping your head on something can cause a concussion, a collision is not needed to create this damage. Rotational and whiplash injuries are other common causes of concussion.
Football is the sport with the most reported concussions; however, sports such as hockey, soccer and lacrosse also have high rates of concussion. Additionally, activities such as rock climbing and horseback riding, as well as car accidents, are common causes of concussion injuries.
What happens during a concussion?
What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?
Signs observed by bystanders (usually parents or coaches):
Appears dazed or stunned.
Is confused about events.
Answers questions slowly.
Can’t recall events after the hit, bump or fall.
Loses consciousness (even briefly).
Shows behavior or personality changes.
Forgets class schedule or assignments.
May be uncharacteristically irritable, sad or nervous.
Tends to be more emotional than usual.
Symptoms reported by the athlete or injured individual:
Difficulty thinking clearly
Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Feeing more “slowed down”
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
Headache or “pressure” in head
Nausea or vomiting
Fatigue or feeling tired
Difficulty focusing or concentrating on a skill or task
Blurry or double vision
Sensitivity to light or noise
Numbness or tingling
Does not “feel right”
Some symptoms can be an indication that a more severe traumatic brain injury occurred. If any of these symptoms are present, the athlete should be evaluated by a qualified medical or emergency professional without delay:
Loss of consciousness
Severe or increasing neck pain
Weakness in arms or legs
Tingling or burning in arms or legs
Decreasing level of consciousness
Severe or increasing headache
Unusual behavior change
One pupil larger than the other
When in Doubt, Take Them Out!
If you think you or your child has had a concussion, you should see a licensed health care professional within 72 hours. A licensed health care professional is a registered, licensed, certified or otherwise statutorily recognized health care professional whose training includes the evaluation and management of concussions consistent with current medical knowledge. Examples include: