Sports Medicine

Recognizing Concussion Symptoms in Kids

According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, an average of 1 to 2 million children and teens visit emergency rooms across the country for sport-related concussions. Often these injuries are the result of participation in sports – football, soccer, basketball, cycling and playground activities – and can lead to temporary loss of normal brain function.

Symptoms may appear almost immediately after the injury occurs, but can take 48-72 hours to fully develop. Younger kids often don’t realize they have a concussion and older kids will sometimes ignore them or try to downplay symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game. That’s why it’s important for coaches and parents to learn how to recognize symptoms. Here’s what you should watch for:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Balance issues
  • Nausea
  • Learning or memory problems
  • A headache that gets worse
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty waking up after sleep

If you suspect your child has a concussion, immediately remove him or her from any situations that could potentially worsen the injury. That means not sending them back into a game or letting them continue to play. It’s important to make an appointment with a sports medicine physician or, depending on the severity of symptoms, visit your local emergency room for evaluation.

When concussions are treated properly, the risk of long-term complications is minimal. Treatment most often includes reducing stimulation. For example, if bright light worsens your child’s symptoms, he or she should wear tinted sunglasses during recovery. Typically 80 to 90 percent of kids will see an improvement in symptoms within two weeks.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s crucial your child is completely healed before returning to normal activities. While recovering from a concussion, there’s an increased risk for suffering a second concussion. Suffering a second one could be life-threatening if it involves an injury to the same area of the brain.

Although many people look to wearing helmets as a way to prevent concussions, injuries can still occur even with protective gear. The best way to prevent injuries is by educating coaches and players how to hit appropriately while playing full contact sports. Limiting head contact and encouraging more shoulder or chest contact can help reduce concussions. Strengthening the neck muscles to control rotation and improve the stability of the head may also help.

Edward-Elmhurst Health sports medicine physicians are working to help parents, coaches, trainers and physical therapists learn how to recognize concussion symptoms and where to seek care and treatment. Our goal is to help kids get treated quickly and appropriately so they can get back to play faster.

To learn more about treatment for concussions visit To schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine specialists/physiatrists, call 630-527-3200, 331-221-9095 or schedule an appointment online.
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