As school starts back and high school football begins, one of the biggest concerns for the parents of young athletes is injuries, particularly head injuries. One of the questions that we are most frequently asked is, “How do I know if my child has a concussion?”

What exactly is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works. It is usually 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.

Concussion signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • Can’t recall events prior to the hit, bump, or fall • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about events • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Answers questions slowly • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Repeats questions • Forgets class schedule or assignments

Concussion symptoms reported by your child or teen:


  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Feeling more slowed down
  • Feeling hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Difficulty thinking clearly


  • Headache or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Numbness or tingling


  • Irritable
  • Sad
  • Nervous
  • More emotional than usual


  • Drowsy
  • Sleeps less than usual
  • Has trouble falling asleep

How do I protect my child from a concussion?

One of the ways that we can protect our children from a concussion is by making sure that all of the organizations they are involved with have a firmly established concussion protocol. A concussion protocol is an organization’s set of policies, tools, and assessments for caring for a concussion. It outlines how the concussion care team prepares for and responds to this injury. You may think a “concussion protocol” implies a strict, written policy that instructs healthcare providers to treat every patient and every concussion the same. However, trained healthcare providers know that a concussion requires an individualized care approach. A concussion protocol (policy) is used to ensure that everyone involved knows what to do when a concussion happens. When signing your child up for sports or activities, make sure to ask for a copy of that organization’s concussion protocols.

We hope that these tips will be helpful in identifying if your child has a concussion. The best advice that we can give parents is when in doubt, sit them out! Letting a child return to sports or physical activity too soon after a concussion will greatly increase their chance of a secondary brain injury.

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