What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused when the brain moves rapidly back and forth inside the skull. It can cause a variety of symptoms and may affect the way your child thinks or acts. Most concussions do not include a loss of consciousness.

What causes a concussion?

A concussion can be caused directly by a hit to the head, or indirectly by a hit to the body that causes a sudden jerk of the head or neck. Any force that causes the brain to move around in the skull can result in a concussion.

How serious is a concussion?

Any head injury needs to be taken seriously. Most concussions, managed appropriately, resolve without complications. On rare occasions, concussion injuries can be more serious and result in long term disabilities.

The real dangers of most concussions occur when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a child at increased risk for future concussions and serious complications.

If a person has another concussion, the effects can be worse and result in more serious complications. Second impact syndrome is a rare but typically fatal injury that may result if a person sustains another concussion before their brain has healed.

Managing a child with a concussion

A concussion is a mild brain injury and can be difficult to manage. The long term health of a child who has sustained a concussion is dependent on a management team of athletes, coaches, referees, school staff, physicians and parents. As a parent you have an important role in each stage of managing your child’s concussion. Your position as the central caregiver is critical to your child’s recovery.

If you suspect your child has a concussion, check for Red Flag Symptoms immediately and review the steps on the  Concussion Response Tool

For more information take the Concussion Awareness Course

Concussion Facts

  • Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness
  • Helmets DO NOT protect against concussions
  • A child does not need to be hit in the head to sustain a concussion
  • The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed up to weeks post injury
Does the player have a concussion?

If the player shows any of the Red Flag Symptoms call 911 immediately.

Did the player have a hit to the head or blow to the body?

You should consider the player to have a concussion if you or someone else has witnessed, or you suspect that, the player has had either a hit to the head or a hit to the body that caused a sudden jerk to the neck or head.

Even if the player shows no obvious signs of having a concussion, if they have had an incident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Does the player have signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed for several hours or even days following an incident. Following is a list of signs and symptoms consistent with a concussion.

Thinking and Remembering Physical Emotional and Mood Sleep
Not thinking clearly Headache Easily upset or angered Sleeping more
Feeling slowed down Fuzzy or blurry vision Sad Sleeping less
Unable to concentrate Nausea and vomiting Nervous or anxious Having a hard time falling asleep
Unable to remember new information Dizziness More emotional Sensitivity to light or noise
Balance problems
Feeling tired or having no energy

If the player is showing any of these signs and symptoms then you should take the player to the doctor to investigate further. If the player has had a past concussion incident, even a minor hit to the head or body can trigger symptoms.

Concussion Response Tool

The Concussion Response Tool was developed to assist coaches and parents to recognize and respond to concussions. The first two pages outline how to respond to a concussion at the time of the incident. The third page provides important information for parents who are caring for their child at home after the incident.

The Concussion Response Tool can also serve as an important communication tool for sharing information from the scene of the incident.

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What do I do if I think the player has a concussion?

If the player shows any of the Red Flag Symptoms call 911 immediately.

If you suspect the player has sustained a concussion, ensure the player is monitored until a parent or responsible adult is available to take them to a doctor. Do not leave the player alone. Do not let the player drive or return to activities. Watch for red flags and signs and symptoms of a concussion.

DO NOT give the player any medications. There is evidence that some medications can worsen concussion symptoms and could increase potential risks associated with brain injuries. Do not give the player any medication unless directed by a doctor.

Concussion Response Tool

The Concussion Response Tool was developed to assist coaches and parents to recognize and respond to concussions. The first two pages outline how to respond to a concussion at the time of the incident. The third page provides important information for parents who are caring for the player at home after the incident.

The Concussion Response Tool can serve as an important communication tool for sharing information with both the parent and doctor.

A player has a concussion. What is the recovery process?

Most adult concussion signs and symptoms last 7-10 days. Children and adolescents tend to experience a more delayed recovery. Many players will take 2 to 4 weeks to heal though for some it could be months. Having had a previous concussion increases the chance a player will have a delayed recovery.

What is the concussion recovery process?

The Rest Stage

The first and most important step in the player’s recovery from a concussion is rest. The player will need both physical and cognitive rest after sustaining a concussion.

Physical rest means participation in daily life activities that do not result in an increased heart rate or breaking a sweat.

Cognitive rest means limiting activities that require concentration and learning.

The goal is to not trigger or worsen symptoms.

Once symptom-free for a 24 hour period the player can begin to add activities and focus on returning to school. Time within this stage varies with each concussion case.

As new activity levels are introduced, symptoms could return or new symptoms could appear. This means the brain needs more time to heal. If at any point symptoms return, the player stops the activity and rest until symptom-free.

Physical
Restrict Activities that may be tolerated
Exercise
Sports
Riding a bike
Running
Play wrestling
Daily activities that do not increase heart rate or break a sweat.
Cognitive
Restrict or Limit Activities that may be tolerated
Computers
Smartphones
Video games
School work
Watching TV
Playing music
No headphones
Loud music
Reading
Socializing
School attendance
Drawing
Playing with lego
Playing cars/trains
Baking** Low Level Social Interactions (try in short periods)

Social interactions that do not cause symptoms are important in preventing social isolation or depression and anxiety. Some suggestions of low level social interactions are short conversations on the phone with friends and family.

Once symptom-free at rest it is important that the player has successfully returned to school full-time before they begin to return to play sports. Returning to play too early may result in more severe or potentially long term problems. A focus on return to learn first has been shown to lead to a quicker return to play.

A player’s emotions during recovery

It is normal for a child or adolescent to be anxious, angry and depressed after sustaining a concussion. Many players worry about school and social failure. Offer encouragement and support as the player works through the return to play stages.

Depression can be a part of the long term consequences of concussion. The player may be feeling depressed due to a loss of place on your team, in school or social life. Depression in some children can be the result of physical changes in their brain associated with the injury itself.

How does a player successfully return to school and play?
Return to Play

It is important that the player has successfully returned to school full-time before they return to play sports. Returning to play too early may result in more severe or potentially long term problems. A focus on return to learn first has been shown to lead to a quicker return to play. If the player is not a student, they should have successfully returned to cognitive aspects of work before physical activities.

The Return to Play Communication Tool will help guide the player to return to play sports. The goal of working through the return to play stages is to increase physical activity gradually without triggering any symptoms (even very mild symptoms).

The player must be symptom free for at least 24 hours at one stage before advancing to the next one. If at any time the symptoms RE-APPEAR, then they must go back to the previous stage until they are symptom-free again for 24 hours.

If a NEW symptom appears, the player should see a doctor to be cleared to continue on the return to play stages. The return to play stages typically take 7 to 10 days for adults to complete and longer for children and adolescents.

Return to Play Communication Tool

The Return to Play Communication Tool will help guide the player’s recovery and communicate the player’s progress to coaches and physical education teachers.

Medical clearance is required before the player moves to full-contact practice (stage 5).

How can I help to prevent concussions?
Equipment

Helmets and mouth-guards are vital pieces of equipment that protect the player from serious skull and dental injuries, but they do not prevent the brain from moving around when there is impact to the head.

There is no equipment that can totally prevent concussions. Ensuring that players have the required equipment for the sport, that it is in good condition and fits correctly, could decrease incidents that cause concussions.

Encourage Fair Play

A player’s behaviour and attitude about sports has a major impact on concussion causing incidents. Remember your team is watching you. You can encourage fair play by modeling respect and fair play in the presence of players.

Players will often hide symptoms of concussion because they don’t want to disappoint their team or parents. An injured player needs to feel confident in reporting their symptoms. Creating a positive avenue for reporting concussion symptoms sooner can make the biggest difference in preventing more serious concussion outcomes and associated risks.

Learn More About Concussions

Educating yourself is the first step in preventing concussions and reducing associated risks for players. You can further educate yourself by taking the Concussion Awareness Course and checking out the Resources where you will find videos, expert talks and articles.

Teach Your Players

Teaching your players about concussions helps them understand how serious a concussion injury can be. It also gives them the tools to recognize and report if they do sustain a concussion. An informed player is more likely to comply with the recovery process. To help teach your players about concussions, encourage them to visit the Players section.

Red Flag Symptoms

If your child shows any of the following Red Flag Symptoms call 911 immediately.

 

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision