What Parents and Coaches Should Know About Concussions in Youth

Jennifer Cipriano

Youth brain injury? It’s more common than you think.

It’s estimated that up to 3.8 million athletes suffer a concussion annually and as many as 50% of cases go underreported and undiagnosed. Most concussions occur during games, not practices and few result in loss of consciousness.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a jolt, bump or blow to the head or body causing the brain to move quickly back and forth. This movement of the brain can cause chemical changes and sometimes damage to the brain cells.

How can I spot a possible concussion?

Signs you may observe:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Moves clumsily
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior, mood or personality changes
  • Forgets instruction, is confused about the assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score or opponent
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a fall or hit

Symptoms children and teens may report:

  • Headache or the feeling of “pressure” in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bothered by light or noise
  • Feeling dizzy or off balance
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Confusion, concentration or memory problems
  • Feeling sluggish, foggy, groggy or hazy
  • Just not “feeling right” or “feeling down”

How can sports concussions be prevented?

  1. Wear the right protective equipment.

Helmets should be:

  • Worn consistently and correctly
  • Age appropriate
  • Well-maintained
  • Appropriately certified for use
  • Note: there is no “concussion-proof” helmet, although it will decrease the risk

2. Create a safe sports culture and environment.

  • Change the win-at-all-costs mentality
  • Educate coaches and players
  • Practice good sportsmanship
  • Follow the rules for safety

What should I do if I suspect a player has a concussion?

  • Seek medical attention right away
  • Do not allow the player to return to playing the game
    • Second concussions (also known as second impact syndrome) can occur when the first concussion has not yet healed. This can cause further damage to brain cells and potentially be fatal.
  • Tell the coach if your child has had a recent concussion
  • Coaches and parents should not allow the player to return to play until permission is given by a healthcare provider

Sources: National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Safety Council and Safe Kids Worldwide

About the Author

Jennifer Cipriano, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is the Trauma Continuum of Care Coordinator for Lakeland Regional Health and is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.