A concussion is a type of brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Even what seems to be a mild bump to the head can be serious.
Concussions can have a more serious eﬀect on a young, developing brain and need to be addressed correctly.
What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after an injury or may not appear or be noticed until hours or days after the injury. It is important to watch for changes in how your child or teen is acting or feeling, if symptoms are getting worse, or if s/he just “doesn’t feel right.” Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
If your child or teen reports one or more of the symptoms of concussion listed below, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away. Children and teens are among those at greatest risk for concussion.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion
Signs observed by parents or guardians
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about events
Answers questions slowly
Can’t recall events prior to the hit, bump, or fall
*Only ask about sleep symptoms if the injury occurred on a prior day.
Be alert for symptoms that worsen over time. Your child or teen should be seen in an emergency department right away if s/he has:
One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
A headache that gets worse and does not go away
Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
Repeated vomiting or nausea
Convulsions or seizures
Difﬁculty recognizing people or places
Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Loss of consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)
Children and teens with a concussion should NEVER return to sports or recreation activities on the same day the injury occurred. They should delay returning to their activities until a health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion says they are symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play. This means, until permitted, not returning to:
What should I do if my child or teen has a concussion?
1. Seek medical attention right away.
A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion can determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to normal activities, including physical activity and school (concentration and learning activities).
2. Help them take time to get better.
If your child or teen has a concussion, her or his brain needs time to heal. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while s/he is recovering from a concussion. Exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games may cause concussion symptoms (such as headache or tiredness) to reappear or get worse. After a concussion, physical and cognitive activities—such as concentration and learning—should be carefully managed and monitored by a health care professional.
3. Together with your child or teen, learn more about concussions.
Talk about the potential long-term eﬀects of concussion and the dangers of returning too soon to normal activities (especially physical activity and learning/concentration). For more information about concussion and free resources, visit: www.cdc.gov/Concussion.
How can I help my child return to school safely after a concussion?
Help your child or teen get needed support when returning to school after a concussion. Talk with your child’s teachers, school nurse, coach, speech-language pathologist, or counselor about your child’s concussion and symptoms. Your child may feel frustrated, sad and even angry because s/he cannot return to recreation and sports right away, or cannot keep up with schoolwork. Your child may also feel isolated from peers and social networks. Talk often with your child about these issues and offer your support and encouragement. As your child’s symptoms decrease, the extra help or support can be removed gradually. Children and teens who return to school after a concussion may need to:
Take rest breaks as needed
Spend fewer hours at school
Be given more time to take tests or complete assignments
Receive help with schoolwork
Reduce time spent reading, writing, or on the computer