Recognizing concussions in children

Caring For Our Kids

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Concussions in youth sports are on the rise, and when it comes to children, any head injury is scary.  It’s important to recognize the signs of concussion and know what to do if it happens to your child.

Dr. Ryan Redman, emergency room director at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital offers some tips on how to recognize and prevent concussions among children.

What sports have the most concussions? 

  • Research shows that sport-related concussions remain common in nearly all sports, at all levels, but boys tackle football and girls soccer top the list for most concussions, followed by other high-contact sports.

What happens during a concussion?

  • It is a traumatic brain injury. The skull and fluids protect the brain. If someone gets hit hard enough, the brain can shift inside the skull and knock against the bony surface. All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  1. A change in level of alertness. Many people think about the loss of consciousness, but concussions can happen without a child passing out.
  2. Extreme sleepiness
  3. A bad headache
  4. Confusion
  5. Repeated vomiting  
  6. Seizure

When should we take child to the ER?  

  • Any child experiencing vomiting, dizziness, loss of consciousness or change in behavior should seek attention from a medical professional.


The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidance on recovery over the last couple of years after reviewing 25 years of research.

  • Reduce, but don’t eliminate a return to some physical activity in the days following a concussion. Athletes still need to take an immediate break from play, after a concussion, but new research has found that during the recovery process, it’s important to encourage some activity like brisk walking after just a couple of days. Effective management of the injury can shorten recovery time and reduce long-term risks.
  • Reduce, but don’t eliminate a return to some cognitive activity. Just like the return to physical activity, research shows that kids can return to school sooner — often within just a couple days of concussion — but families should still work with teachers on lessening the academic workload depending on how your child is recovering. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Reduce, but not eliminate use of electronics. No research shows the use of electronics is harmful after a concussion. In fact, research shows that complete elimination of electronics can lead to a child’s feeling of social isolation, anxiety or depression. Again, it’s not one-size-fits-all and you know your child best. These are decisions families need to make in consultation with your child’s doctor.

What we still don’t know

  • Long-term effects of a single concussion or multiple concussions is still unknown. However, it’s very important that athletes do not try to tough it out after a head injury. They must be evaluated for concussion and have follow-up care with a doctor.

You can find more information on concussions from the CDC guideline for diagnosis and management of concussions.


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