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Staying Ahead of the Game – Knowing the Signs of a Concussion

October 26, 2018

By now, fall sports are in full swing in schools and clubs all over the state. No matter the sport, there's always a risk of injury. Whether it's the quarterback who takes a hard sack or the cheerleader whose tumble doesn't end as planned, athletes need to remember that any impact that affects the head - even one that isn't direct - can put them at risk for a concussion.

What is a concussion?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports more than 800,000 children seek care for concussions in U.S. emergency departments each year. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is caused by a bump or a blow to the head. Even a mild blow or "getting your bell rung," can be a serious matter. Parents, coaches, and other supporters should also be aware that kids who sustain an injury to the head need to come out of play and be examined as soon as possible.

Look for any of these symptoms if your child has experienced a bump or blow to his or her head. Remember that these signs may appear right away or may show up much later.

  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Is easily confused.
  • Forgets instructions.
  • Moves slowly or clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows behavior or personality changes.
  • Can’t recall events before or after the hit or fall.
  • Develops new problems in school, including changes in concentration and behavior.

Worried your child has a concussion?

If you think your child has a concussion, seek medical attention right away. The CDC recently issued new guidelines for assessing and treating concussions. A health care professional will follow standardized assessment procedures, looking for warning signs and asking questions about pre-existing conditions. You will be given detailed instructions for home care and recommendations for when your child can return to school on a modified or full schedule.

The most important home-care instruction: follow the "return-to-play" protocol as instructed by your child's physician. The brain needs time to heal after a concussion. Children who resume activity or begin playing too soon after an injury are at a bigger risk for getting another concussion. Second or multiple concussions can cause permanent brain damage or even death. After medical clearance, return to play should follow a step-wise protocol with provisions for delayed return to play based upon the return of any signs or symptoms.

The Arkansas Children’s Sports Medicine department is staffed by pediatric orthopedic experts ready to treat your developing athlete’s sports-related injury and return them to school and play as safely as and quickly as possible. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please visit

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