The Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine specializes in the evaluation and treatment of concussions. We have assembled a team of experts, including sports medicine specialists and a neuropsychologist, who together, provide high quality and comprehensive care for children and teens with concussions.
What are Sports Concussions?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that most often occurs in contact sports such as football and soccer. It’s caused by powerful blow to the body or the head that shakes the brain inside the skull, possibly damaging nerves and blood vessels. When this happens, the brain may not function normally, causing problems with vision, hearing, balance and memory. In extreme situations, permanent brain damage can occur, or even death. Such situations should always be considered serious – there is no such thing as a “minor concussion.”
What are the signs and symptoms of Sports Concussions?
The signs and symptoms of concussions vary from child to child, depending on severity of the trauma. These commonly include:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory
Symptoms may worsen in the days following the injury – especially when the brain is stressed, such as during schoolwork or sports.
While concussions aren’t life threatening, the consequences are sometimes serious. When a child experiences a head injury, we advise parents to seek treatment as soon as possible, to avoid any possible further brain damage.
Here are important precautions for the athlete who might have sustained a concussion:
- Rest and avoid strenuous activity: Exercise or activities involving concentration – such as studying, working on the computer or playing video games – might cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse.
- Prevent re-injury: Avoid all sports until your doctor has given you clearance. Ask when it it’s safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or work.
- No alcohol or illicit drugs
- Do not take medications to assist with sleep
- Do not drive until medically cleared
- Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
How are Sports Concussions diagnosed?
Concussions are a common condition in children, but can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are often vague and may come and go in the days and weeks following the injury. Fortunately, the sports medicine specialists at the Children's Health Andrews Institute are experts at diagnosing concussions.
When a child is diagnosed early, our physicians can use effective treatments that enable a safe return to normal activities such as sports. Our physicians start with a full assessment and evaluation that includes a medical history review and physical exam.
Your child’s physical evaluation may test:
- Head-and-neck range of motion
- Balance and coordination
- Memory and concentration
In rare cases, we may order an imaging scan — such as an MRI or CT scan — to examine the brain for possible bleeding or swelling in the skull.
What are the causes of Sports Concussions?
Concussions can be caused by mechanical force or trauma sustained during any sport/athletic activity. Most frequently, but not always, it results from a direct blow to the head. A concussion might also be caused by a blow to the body, as when an athlete makes contact with another, or hits a hard surface, or is hit by a piece of equipment.
How are Sports Concussions treated?
At the Children's Health Andrews Institute, we are committed to helping your child return safely to normal activities like sports and play. Our sports concussion experts customize treatment plans based on each child’s symptoms and test results. Learn more about our Sports Concussion Program.
Sports Concussions Doctors and Providers
Troy Smurawa, MD Sports Medicine Physician
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I prevent my child from getting a concussion?
Young adolescents and all children sustaining a concussion might be more susceptible than adults to prolonged recovery and poorer acute and long-term outcomes. For this reason, prevention and instruction is especially important.
Make sure your child wears a helmet while playing contact sports. While helmets can’t prevent concussions, they can limit the severity of the concussion.
Proper equipment should be used, as should proper technique, such as football coaches’ instruction in tackling. This is especially important for the young athlete, who is especially vulnerable.
Because of the seriousness of concussions, a student-athlete showing any signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion – both at rest and during exertion – should be removed immediately from practice or competition. They then are not to return to participation until cleared by an appropriate health care professional, and not on that same day.
It is suggested that the affected student-athlete be evaluated within 24 hours by a licensed health care professional familiar with concussion management to prevent or lessen any consequences.
When can my child return to sports after suffering a concussion?
It depends. Concussions affect children in different ways. Some children may recover quickly while others may have symptoms that last for weeks. Allowing the injury to fully heal will help lower the risk of second-impact syndrome, a condition that causes further and more serious brain damage.
What are the possible long-term effects of a concussion on my child?
Most children recover fully from mild concussions with no long-term effects. If your child experiences repeated concussions, there’s a possibility of lasting brain damage. That’s why prevention strategies such as helmeting and comprehensive treatment are so important.
Read or download our safety guide on concussions, detailing the signs and symptoms of a concussion and what to do if you suspect your child has one.
Children's Health also offers a 24-hour Concussion Advice Line at 844-414-6824.