Sport-related concussion: Information for parents, coaches and trainers
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that affects the way you think and remember things for a short time. Concussions can’t be seen on x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans.
What causes a concussion?
Any blow to the head, face or neck, or somewhere else on the body that causes a sudden jarring of the head can cause a concussion. Some examples include being hit in the head with a ball or being checked into the boards in hockey.
What are the symptoms and signs of concussion?
A person does not need to be knocked out (lose consciousness or pass out) to have had a concussion.
In younger children, the signs and symptoms may not be clear and your child may have trouble describing how he feels.
||Changes in behaviour
||Cognitive impairment (problems thinking)
||Trouble with sleep
Changes in sight
Loss of consciousness (passing out)
Irritation from light
Irritiation from loud sounds
Loss of balance/poor coordination
Decreased playing ability
|Slowed reaction times
Feeling dazed or in a fog
Trouble falling asleep
Sleeping more than usual
Sleeping less than usual
What should you do if a child gets a concussion?
- Make sure he stops playing the sport right away.
- Do not leave him alone.
- Make sure he sees a doctor as soon as possible that day.
- If he’s knocked out, call an ambulance to go to a hospital immediately.
- Do not move him or remove sport equipment, such as a helmet.
- Wait for the paramedics to arrive.
How long will it take to get better?
If your child has had a concussion, she will need to be watched closely by a responsible adult for 24 to 48 hours to make sure her symptoms aren’t getting worse.
Problems caused by a head injury can get worse later that day or night. Do not leave your child or teen alone and check on her through the night. There is no need to wake her up during the night, unless there is a concern about your child’s breathing or sleep. If she seems to be getting worse, see a doctor immediately.
The signs and symptoms of concussion often last for 7 to 10 days. Sometimes they last much longer, even many weeks or months. If your child or teen has had a concussion before, it may take longer to heal.
How is a concussion treated?
The most important treatment for a concussion is rest. That means no exercising, bike riding, play wrestling with family or friends, playing video games or working on the computer.
Your child or teen may have to stay home from school because school work can make her symptoms worse. If she goes back to school or resumes activities before she is completely better, her symptoms could get worse or take longer to go away.
Even though it is very hard for an active person to rest, this is the most important step. Once he is completely better while resting, he can start to increase his activities slowly (see below). It is important to see a doctor before returning to activity.
After a concussion, when can my child or teen return to school?
Sometimes people who have a concussion find it hard to concentrate in school. They may get a worse headache or feel sick to their stomach if they try to learn. Your child or teen should stay home from school if her symptoms get worse while in class. Once she feels better, she can try going back to school for half days to start. Homework should be limited during this time.
You can gradually start to increase school attendance, making sure your child continues to feel well. When she’s symptom free, she can go back to school full-time.
When can my child or teen return to playing sports?
Children should return to sport only after they have returned to school full-time. Children should not go back to sports if they have any symptoms or signs of a concussion. They must rest until they are completely back to normal. After they feel normal and have seen a doctor, your child or teen can then go through these steps to gradually increase activity:
- Complete rest until all symptoms are gone
- Light exercise, such as walking or stationary cycling, for 10 to 15 minutes
- Try a sport-specific activity (such as skating in hockey or running in soccer) for 20 to 30 minutes
- Move to “on field” practice, such as ball drills, shooting drills and other activities with no contact (for example, no checking and no heading the ball)
- Once cleared by a doctor, move to “on field” practice with body contact
- Game play
No child should go back to a sport until they have been cleared to do so by a doctor.
Each step must take at least 1 day. If your child or teen has any symptoms of a concussion (headache or feeling sick to the stomach) during the activity, he should stop the activity immediately and rest for 24 to 48 hours. He should be seen by a doctor before starting the stepwise plan again.
When should a child go to a doctor?
Every child who gets a head injury should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
If your child or teen has been diagnosed with a concussion, it’s important to return to a doctor immediately if symptoms get worse, such as:
- more confusion,
- a headache that gets worse,
- vomiting more than once,
- not waking up,
- having trouble walking,
- experiencing a seizure, or
- behaving strangely.
How can I prevent a concussion?
Your child should wear an approved safety helmet at all times for sports where there is a risk of a head injury, such as cycling, skiing, and skating.
If you are a coach, or trainer, learn how to recognize the sign and symptoms of sport-related concussion.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Healthy Active Living and Sports Medicine Committee
Last Updated: March 2014