What is a Concussion?

According to the CDC , a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.

Impact of Concussion Injuries

Watch this short video about Zach Lystedt, who received a concussion playing football at 13 years old and suffered devastating consequences after returning to play too soon after the concussion.



Fast Facts

  • At least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or have sustained serious head injuries on the field, according to research by The New York Times.
  • Female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40% more concussions than males (29,000 annually). Journal of Athletic Training, July – September 2003
  • Female high school basketball athletes suffer 240% more concussions than males (13,000 annually). Journal of Athletic Training, July – September 2003
  • 400,000 brain injuries (concussions) occurred in high school athletics during the 2008-09 school year. "Compliance with return to play guidelines following concussion in US high school athletes", 2005-2008
  • Concussion symptoms such as headache and disorientation may disappear in fifteen minutes, but 75% of those tested 36 hours later still had problems with memory and cognition. Journal of Athletic Training, July – September 2003
  • 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day. Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Dawn Comstock.




As a parent of a student athlete, you play a pivotal role in preventing sports injuries in your child. Take a proactive stance to ensure coaches, staff, and athletes are being trained in safety procedures and drills.

Check with your league, school, or district about concussion policies and procedures.

  • Training: How much training do coaches receive on safe play? Are coaches expected to complete courses on how to prevent and assess injuries and guidelines for students returning to play after an injury? If not, involve other parents and school officials to advocate for training. As a start, there are free training courses and materials on the Center for Disease (CDC) webpage.

  • Policies:  The CDC recommends coaches and schools implement a Concussion Policy Statement which can include a commitment to safety (a brief description about concussions and information on when athletes can safely return to play) as well as a concussion action plan. If your child’s school does not already do this-take the lead!

Form a Committee. Get together with other parents and form a safety committee.  Conduct regular safety meetings at practices and games to talk about concussion risks and to promote safe behaviors and play techniques to other parents and athletes. Encourage students to speak up when they are hurt or showing signs of an injury rather than keeping quiet. Hand out informational materials, such as fact sheets on symptoms and signs of concussions to help with early detection.

Be an Expert. Don’t solely rely on the knowledge of coaches or other parents when making decisions for your child.  Know the facts so that you can accurately identify signs of a concussion and how to respond if a concussion occurs. Don’t leave it up to the coach to determine when you child is removed from the game due to an injury.    


Get Trained. Make sure you learn the basics of concussion risks, signs and symptoms, and how to respond if an athlete shows signs of a concussion. Don’t know where to start? The CDC offers a free training course here.

Commit to Safety. Implement a policy statement that includes a commitment to safety (a brief description about concussions and information on when athletes can safely return to play) that will be signed by all students and parents. An
action plan can ensure concussions are identified early and managed correctly.

Educate Parents. You are not alone in your desire to implement safe play. Get other parents involved! See if some parents are willing to form a safety committee to educate other parents on safe play and techniques as well as to hand out informational
materials at practices and games.

Monitor the Health of your Athletes. Require that students get annual exam with their physician to ensure they can participate in sports.  Consider advocating the use of baseline testing (neurocognitive tests to assess brain function to be used post concussion for comparison purposes). 

Promote a "Safety First" Attitude. Look for ways to emphasize safe play. Take athletes out of practice or the game with any signs of an injury. Reinforce speaking up when hurt and discourage other athletes from teasing teammates for sitting out due to an injury.  

Seek Medical Advice. Insist on doctor approval to return to play after any injury, especially a concussion.  According to
WebMD, repeat concussions cause cumulative effects on the brain. Successive concussions can have devastating consequences, including brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disabilities, or even death. Don't let a student return to normal activities if they still have symptoms, even with medical clearance. Trust your judgment. Your prolonged time with the athletes allows you to better see the behavioral signs of concussion damage better than a concise, well-meaning doctor’s evaluation.



The CDC lists concussion signs as:
Signs Observed by Coaching Staff
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about assignment or position
Forgets an instruction
Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
Answers questions slowly
Loses consciousness (even briefly)
Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
Can’t recall events after hit or fall
Symptoms Reported by Athlete
Headache or “pressure” in head
Nausea or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or blurry vision
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
Concentration or memory problems
Does not “feel right” or is “feeling down”
If you notice any change in behavior or significant signs or symptoms, contact the nearest hospital or emergency medical services.


Suspect a Concussion?

Try implementing a 4 step action plan:

  1. Remove the athlete from play. Look for signs and symptoms of a concussion if your athlete has experienced a bump or blow to the head or body. When in doubt, keep the athlete out of play.


  1. Ensure that the athlete is evaluated by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussions. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Health care professionals have a number of methods that they can use to assess the severity of concussions. As a coach, recording the following information can help health care professionals in assessing the athlete after the injury:

  • Cause of the injury and force of the hit or blow to the head or body

  • Any loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out) and if so, for how long

  • Any memory loss immediately following the injury

  • Any seizures immediately following the injury

  • Number of previous concussions (if any

  1. Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them the fact sheet on concussions. Make sure they know that the athlete should be seen by a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussions.


  1. Keep the athlete out of play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussions, says they are symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death.


Check out this video from the Mayo Clinic on concussion recovery:



Additional Resources:

NATA: National Athletic Trainers Association:
STOP Sports Injury:

Safe Kids Worldwide:



In The News:

NFL hopes camp for moms will prevent concussions in kids
Baseball and the brain: New danger in concussion crisis?
Blood Test Might Help Spot, Monitor Concussions
Preps at greater concussion risk
Preventing Sports Concussions Among Children

This information does not offer medical advice or make any medical claims. Nothing contained in this information is intended to constitute professional advice for medical diagnosis or treatment. 
Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding concussions or other youth injuries.