Kids and Sports Concussions: Things to Know

Kids and Sports Concussions: Things to Know

We all know that a concussion can be serious, but many of us don’t know its symptoms. Do you know what to do if your child gets one?

Young children, teenagers and young adults have a higher risk because their brains are still developing. Here are some key things you should know to help keep your kids safe.

The Facts

A 2022 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals 6.2 million children suffered concussions – or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – from sports between 2000 and 2019. Football, bicycling and basketball are the top three sports that see the most TBIs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a TBI is caused by a fall or blow to the head that causes the brain to quickly shift back and forth. This jostling can damage the brain.

Football, bicycling and basketball are the top three activities that see the most TBIs in children and teens. But concussions don’t just happen on sport fields. Even children under the age of 10 just horsing around on the playground can experience a concussion.

Signs and Symptoms

Most people think a loss of consciousness is the tell-tale sign of concussion. Not all people who suffer a concussion lose consciousness, though. Other signs of TBI are subtle and may be missed.

Watch for these signs if your kid has a fall or head injury:

  • Can’t recall events before or after a fall
  • Seems dazed, confused, stunned
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Mood, behavior, personality changes

Some symptoms may not show up for a few hours or even days after a head injury. Seek medical care right away if your child experiences:

  • Headache, pressure in the head
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness, blurry, double vision
  • Sensitive to light or noise
  • Feel sluggish, hazy, groggy
  • Confused, unable to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Weakness or numbness in any part of the body
Bench Your Kids During Recovery

Kids recover from concussions slower than adults. A child or teen who returns to the game while still having symptoms is at risk for serious, permanent brain damage. It’s crucial that kids be symptom-free and cleared by a doctor before restarting any activity.

After a concussion, rest helps the brain heal. Check with your doctor to learn how long your child should rest. Find out when they can ease back into sports and activities – and when they can play full throttle. It’s likely your child will need to sit out practices, games and exercise for a bit. He or she may also need to ease back into school. See if they can have extra time with tests and schoolwork.

Help Lower Their Risks

There is no sure-fire way to prevent a concussion. Still, there are steps you can take to lower your child’s risk.

  • Educate yourself and your child about its symptoms
  • Encourage your child to tell you about head injury or trauma right away
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet when riding a bicycle
  • Outfit your child with the proper helmet and gear for any contact sport
  • Make sure you and your child know all team and league concussion and safe-play rules
  • Help your child understand it’s better to sit out a short while recovering than risk missing the entire season — or worse — because of an early return

Of course, protection is not only about having a helmet. It’s about finding the right kind of helmet, making sure it fits properly and wearing it. The CDC offers some really helpful information in this fact sheetleaving site icon

Has your child ever had a concussion? How did you help them heal? Share your story in the comments.

Sources: Trends in Traumatic Brain Injury Related to Consumer Products Among U.S. School-aged Children Between 2000 and 2019, leaving site icon American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2022; Concussion Signs and Symptomsleaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

Originally published 8/13/2015; Revised 2023