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How to Protect Young Athletes from Concussion

woman playing soccer

Here's how to recognize and respond to possible brain injuries.

As concern about concussions among young athletes grows, experts increasingly urge coaches, parents and athletes to learn how to recognize and respond to a concussion. And with good reason – sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency visits in children ages 8-13.

The decisions made after a young athlete sustains a possible head injury can make a difference in whether the athlete fully recovers. A child who has a concussion is 1½ times more likely to have another. If they have had 2 concussions, they have 3 times the risk of it happening again.

What is a concussion?

Concussions are caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head. In a concussion, the brain gets bounced around in the skull, causing temporary disruption of normal brain functions.

Signs of possible concussion include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering new information
  • Confusion
  • Irritability or nervousness
  • Moodiness or sadness
  • Excessive sleepiness or sluggishness
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Some signs of concussion may appear right away, but others may not show up until hours or days after injury.

What to do if you think an athlete has a concussion:

  • Remove the athlete from play or practice on the day of injury. When in doubt, have them sit it out.
  • Seek medical attention. Only a health care provider can determine if an athlete has a concussion and when it's okay to return to play. A quick concussion test on the sidelines is not enough.

Other facts about concussion:

  • Concussions are not limited to male athletes. In fact, studies show that female athletes sustain a higher percentage of concussions during games than male athletes.
  • Sports particularly susceptible to concussions include soccer, football, lacrosse, ice hockey, basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.
  • You don't have to get hit on the head to have a concussion. Bodily contact can also cause injury to your brain.