Concussions in Sport


June 6, 2012

What is a concussion? A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a bump or blow to the head or a jolt of the head caused by a blow to the body that results in the brain bouncing around in the skull. This can cause a disruption to the way the brain works and have temporary or long lasting effects.

Though most athletes recover quickly, it can take others days, weeks or months to fully recover. Unlike a broken bone, you cannot see a concussion. It is crucial for the athlete to be evaluated by a healthcare professional trained to diagnosis concussions, before returning to play. On the field, coaching staff and athletic trainers should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion which are listed below. Once the brain is injured it is very important to allow time to fully recover to prevent long term problems.

Depending on the severity of the concussion, the athlete may experience sensitivity to light, noise, and other stimulating activity. He/she may have challenges returning to school and may need special accommodations to be successful in the classroom. This may include taking frequent rest breaks, requiring help or more time to complete tests or assignments, or spending less time reading, writing, or on the computer.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion:

Signs and symptoms of a concussion typically show up soon after the injury, however, symptoms may not show up for several hours or days. It is important to monitor an athlete who suffers a bump or blow to the head for 24 hours following the injury.

Symptoms the athlete may report include the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or difficulty balancing
  • Vision disturbances
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering
  • Feeling dazed or mentally foggy
  • Difficulty recalling current events
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Confusion

Signs observed by the coach or athletic trainer:

  • Appears dazed or stunned or moves clumsily
  • Confused about directions
  • Forgets instruction
  • Unable to recall current events – score, opponent or where he/she is
  • Unable to recall events prior to or after injury
  • Slow to answer questions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Mood changes
  • Perseveration – or fixating on a specific topic, asking the same questions over and over despite being given the correct answer

What to do if you suspect a head injury:

If you suspect an athlete has suffered a concussion remove him / her from the game and observe for the signs and symptoms mentioned above. It is important that the athlete be evaluated by an experienced health care provider. A coach or athletic trainer should record the following information which can assist the health care provider when assessing the athlete.

  • Cause of injury – explain in detail what happened
  • Loss of consciousness – note the time and monitor length of time unconscious
  • Loss of memory immediately following the injury
  • Occurrence of seizures if any – note the time and length of seizure
  • Number of previous concussions

Any athlete who is suspected of a having a concussion or exhibits one or more of the signs and symptoms must be evaluated by a health care provider experienced in dealing with concussions before returning to play.

For more helpful information on caring for an athlete who has suffered a concussion visit the Center for Disease Control or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.