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.
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:
A more severe head injury may also cause the following symptoms:
**A child showing these symptoms requires immediate medical care.
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.
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.
Concussions can be difficult to prevent, especially in contact sports. To decrease the chance of a concussion:
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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP