How can I tell if my child athlete has a concussion?

By: Kaitlin Minnehan
Medical Student at Penn State College of Medicine

As many of us have read in the news lately, concussions are a very common problem for athletes of all ages and skill level. However, recognizing a concussion can be very difficult. The most important thing to do when you think that your child might have a concussion is to take them out of the game right away.  It is essential that children rest and avoid any sort of physical activity to prevent more damage and future problems. If you think that your child might have a concussion, they should be seen by a doctor or athletic trainer as soon as possible.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of brain injury. Concussions can be caused by a hit to the head or a force impact without a direct hit.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

If a concussion is suspected, the child should be removed from the game right away, and not play for the rest of the day. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Blackout or loss of consciousness
  • Balance problems or stumbling while walking
  • Loss of memory
  • Appearing dazed or confused
  • Slurred or unclear speech
  • Vomiting
  • Slow to move or stand up, or is motionless

 What should I do if I think my child has a concussion?

If you think your child has a concussion, they need to stop playing and not play again for the rest of the game. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor. In the meantime, here are some other things you can have your child do to recover while waiting to see the doctor:

  •  Rest in a quiet space, avoiding loud noises and bright lights
  • Use an ice pack on the head and neck to help with pain
  • Avoid any activities that are physically demanding (sports, housework etc.) or require a lot of concentration (reading, schoolwork etc.)
  • Avoid “screen time”, including computers, television, phones and tablets.
  • Do not drive
  • Do not drink alcohol, take sleeping pills or use any other substance.
  • Do not use aspirin or Ibuprofen, Advil, etc. (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines)

 When does my child need to go to the emergency room?

If your child has any of the following signs or symptoms, they need to go to the hospital right away:

  • Headache is getting worse
  • Cannot be woken up from sleep
  • Vomiting multiple times
  • Week or numb arms or legs
  • Unusual behavior, like slurred speech or being very irritable

More Information:

www.CDC.gov/Concussion

www.NCAA.org/health-safety

http://www.maine.gov/doe/concussion

 For more information on this topic, or other health related ones, feel free to reach out to a health educator at healthquestions@mainehealth.org.

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