Best Practices for Concussion Safety: Wrestling

Wrestling can be a great way for children and teenagers to stay in shape while bonding with their classmates and peers. But a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that wrestling has the highest concussion rate of all college-level sports.

Keep your child or student-athlete safe during this year’s wrestling season by following these best practices for concussion safety.

1. Know the early signs and symptoms of a concussion

There is a range of symptoms associated with concussion, and they can be observed anywhere from immediately following a head injury to hours or even days later. Common early symptoms include headache, dizziness, blurry vision, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping and sensitivity to light or noise.

Knowing these signs and symptoms is crucial. Coaches especially are in the position to advocate for their athletes’ safety. In fact, one wrestling coach saved a young athlete’s life by being aware of the signs of concussion.

2. Talk to youth athletes about concussion symptoms

Both parents and coaches should speak with youth wrestlers about the signs and symptoms of a concussion, as well as the importance of letting an adult know if they experience any of these symptoms. After all, half of high school athletes who experience a concussion do not report their symptoms, according to USA Wrestling. It’s also important that coaches and players are aware that loss of consciousness likely won’t happen following a concussion. In fact, less than 10 percent of concussions include loss of consciousness, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

3. Know USA Wrestling’s return-to-play concussion protocol

If you think your child or athlete has experienced a concussion, they should be removed from play immediately and not returned until receiving clearance from a health care provider. Athletes thought to have sustained a concussion should not be allowed to return to activity on the same day as the injury, per USA Wrestling’s standards. Return-to-play protocol involves five steps, and no more than two can be done in a single day.

Wrestlers should not be returned to play until a written release is received from a physician or athletic trainer, according to USA Wrestling. This cautionary measure is in place to prevent a potentially fatal condition called second-impact syndrome, in which someone experiences a second concussion before being healed from the first one.

4. Know that wrestling gear likely cannot prevent concussions

No conclusive research has been done that suggests certain helmets, headgear or mouthguards perform better than others in terms of concussion prevention, according to USA Wrestling. Because of the lack of research surrounding wrestling gear in the prevention of concussion, it’s imperative for athletes to know about the signs and symptoms of concussion, as well as the importance of reporting symptoms early.

5. Teach athletes about best practices for wrestling safety

Wrestlers, their coaches and their families should be well-versed in best practices for preventing common injuries. The most common injuries in wrestling affect the head, face and knee, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM). Skin infections are also common in wrestlers. Review the AOSSM’s best practices for preventing common wrestling injuries before the season begins.

6. If a concussion is sustained, rest is crucial

If an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, they should rest. This means limiting any physically or mentally straining activities (such as studying and playing video games) for 10 days, according to USA Wrestling. Most concussions will resolve themselves in a period of seven to 10 days, Healthline notes. Studying and other activities that require mental focus can be difficult for children recovering from a concussion. Persisting through these activities despite experiencing trouble can exacerbate concussion symptoms and extend the recovery process.

If your child is struggling with schoolwork following a concussion, USA Wrestling recommends discussing potential short-term accommodations for your child with school officials.

For the latest information on concussion symptoms, treatment and more, visit the International Concussion Society’s Resource Library.

Concussion, Your Child and You

What every parent needs to know about concussion risk

Concussions can happen anywhere. From a fall on the playground to a hard hit on the field, accidents that result in a concussion are especially common in children. For parents, the most important thing you can do is not underestimate just how serious they can be.

Recognizing the symptoms and knowing the right steps to take are crucial to ensuring your child receives the proper care. John Leddy, MD, FACSM, FACP, a Professor of Clinical Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Sciences and Director of the University at Buffalo Concussion Management Clinic, explains the common symptoms of concussion, how to treat youth concussion properly and ensure your child returns to school and sports safely.

What is a concussion?

“A concussion is a temporary disturbance of brain function that occurs when traumatic forces are transmitted to the head, either directly or indirectly,” explains Dr. Leddy. This means that a concussion can occur from forces other than a direct blow to the head. A hit to the body can jostle the brain, causing it to collide with the skull and result in a concussion. But what makes concussions so scary for parents is that they aren’t always visible.

“Most concussions do not occur with loss of consciousness,” says Dr. Leddy. “In fact, concussion often occurs despite the individual not being unconscious. This is particularly true in sports, where loss of consciousness is unusual.”

What are the common symptoms of concussion?

Concussion results in the fairly rapid onset of a series of symptoms such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision, trouble with concentration, memory or balance. “A concussion typically evolves over a period of 24 hours or so, and it may continue to evolve or be persistent, depending on how bad the injury is,” Dr. Leddy states.

Symptoms of concussion are the same across age groups; children 10 and younger will experience the same symptoms as high school athletes. “What’s different is that children under 10 may not know how to articulate their symptoms,” says Dr. Leddy. “They’ll say, ‘I feel weird’ or ‘I’m tired,’ but they might not know how to express feeling more irritable, off-balance or recognize that their blurred vision is what’s giving them a headache. Young children have a hard time describing how severe their symptoms are because you need life experience to do that.”

My child is under 10, how can I tell if they have a concussion?

Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior.

“Anything out of the ordinary, such as being less active, more tired or more irritable, is important to note,” says Dr. Leddy.

Think about a possible cause of injury.

If your child just came back from football practice or was climbing on the jungle gym after school, they might have been injured there. “Inquire as to the possible mechanism of injury earlier in the day or the day before.”

Ask leading questions.

If you notice something’s off and know they were playing earlier, ask the child, “Hey, did you hit your head?” or “Did you fall down and bump your head, or did you get kicked in the head?” It’s important for parents to start the conversation since young children might not know what to say.

Dr. John Leddy quite about common cause of concussion in children under 10

What should I do if I think my child has a concussion?

“The first step is to make sure that the injury is not something more serious,” says Dr. Leddy. “If your child is saying, “My headache is really bad,” he or she is vomiting or isn’t answering questions appropriately, it may be a brain injury that is more severe than concussion and you need to take your child to the emergency room.” These symptoms could be the sign of something more severe such as bleeding in the brain.

However, if the symptoms are more standard, such as a personality change, non-worsening headache, feeling foggy or trouble with balance, an emergency room visit may not be necessary. “You can choose to bring your child to an ER or urgent care center if you’d prefer to–that’s OK!” he explains. “As long as things are not getting worse within the first 24 to 48 hours, a hospital visit is generally not necessary. At a minimum, however, within the next day or so bring the child to the primary care physician or to a concussion clinic in your area.”

How long should my child sit out of sports and school?

The first two days are crucial in terms of caring for children with concussion. “The first few days after a concussion are going to be difficult for the child or young adult, and school or other activities will only exacerbate their symptoms,” Dr. Leddy states. “Most kids with concussions should not go to school the first day or two immediately following the injury. Absolutely no sports during this period. We try to get kids back to school, with accommodations, as soon as possible after those first few days”

Staying home from school with a concussion does not mean lying in bed all day. “We don’t treat concussions by keeping patients in a dark room anymore,” he explains. “It’s better to move around, interact with others and perform low-level activities. Of course, they shouldn’t do anything that exacerbates their headache or dizziness. If anything makes their symptoms worse, they should stop and rest. Getting relative rest—which means staying below symptom-exacerbation thresholds—and taking it easy is important for the first 48 hours.”

Is screen time OK when a child is recovering from a concussion?

Once symptoms have stabilized or started to improve after the first few days, you can start to reintroduce activities to your child’s routine. “They can text their friends and have minimal screen time,” Dr. Leddy says, “but they shouldn’t be looking at a screen for an hour.” Kids should do things in small chunks of time, 10 or 15 minutes each, and take scheduled breaks. “I like the ‘15-5 rule’ for the first days after concussion: do cognitive activity for 15 minutes, or stop sooner if symptoms increase, and then take a 5 minute break. Keep repeating this cycle until you complete your task”.

How can I manage my child’s pain at home?

“Using Tylenol in the first few days is fine,” says Dr. Leddy. Try to avoid aspirin or other anti-inflammatories, as these can thin the blood. “Try not to use medicines more than four days a week. Taking headache medications too frequently can cause rebound headaches.”

Do helmets help prevent concussion?

There’s no scientific evidence to prove that helmets prevent concussions. “That doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t need to wear a helmet in football or hockey,” he says. “Helmets are very good at doing what they were designed for, and that’s preventing skull fractures. However, a helmet isn’t going to prevent the brain from getting shaken up. Any kid who hits his or her head while wearing a helmet during sports should be assessed and potentially treated for a concussion.”

How common are concussions in kids?

“The most common cause for concussions in children under 10 isn’t sport––it’s falling on the playground, falling off their bike or running into somebody at school,” Dr. Leddy explains. “On the other hand, sports are the number one cause of concussion in adolescents.”

It’s estimated that over half of student-athletes will sustain at least one concussion before they graduate high school. “The most dangerous thing an athlete can do is to continue to play with concussion symptoms or return to the playing field too soon, which puts them at increased risk of additional damage to the brain,” says Dr. Leddy. Educating children, coaches and parents about the signs and symptoms of a concussion is vital to ensure they are treated properly before returning to play.

For more breaking news and resources in the field of concussion, make sure to follow Concussion.Org on social media.

How to Be Your Child’s Health Care Advocate

Knowing common signs and symptoms of concussion is invaluable

As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is be an advocate for your child when it comes to concussion safety. After all, more than 800,000 children seek treatment for mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, each year.

Being an advocate for your child means knowing how to help him or her avoid a mild traumatic brain injury. It also means being aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion and speaking up if you don’t think your child is receiving appropriate medical care. Below, you’ll find specific steps you can take to ensure you’re acting as your child’s best health care advocate.

Concussion Signs and Symptoms

The first step you can take to be your child’s health care advocate is educating yourself on concussion, which can occur following a hard blow to the head or body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion vary, as does their onset. Some children will have symptoms immediately following the injury, while others won’t show symptoms for days or weeks, the Mayo Clinic says. Some common symptoms of concussion in children include headache, a feeling of pressure in the head, dizziness, nausea, confusion, slurred speech, fatigue and brief loss of consciousness.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released specific guidelines for treating concussion in children. If your child participates in contact sports, it’s especially important to read up on these guidelines so that you can ask the appropriate questions. Read these guidelines over to get a firm understanding of the latest protocol in concussion treatment in children.

How to Avoid Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth Sports

Youth sports are a great way for children to make friends, get active and be competitive. But with youth sports, especially contact sports, there is a risk of injury. There are a handful of steps you can take to make sure your child is safe before entering the game:

  1. Talk to your children. Teach your children about the signs and symptoms of concussion, as well as the importance of speaking up if they ever feel like they have these symptoms.
  2. Visit your pediatrician. Getting a physical is an important step in preparing your child for athletics, as it will ensure your child is healthy before his or her first game. Visiting the pediatrician can also allow you to speak with your health care provider about any additional preventive concussion measures your child can take before starting a new sport.
  3. Purchase the correct protective equipment. This step is crucial, as ill-fitting equipment can increase the chances of injury. The CDC offers specific equipment and helmet guidelines for various sports, including baseball, football, hockey, skiing, lacrosse and more.

What to Do If Your Child Is Injured

If your child is injured and you believe he or she might have a concussion, there are steps you can take to ensure your child gets the care needed to be on the path to a safe recovery. Take the following steps if you think your child might have a concussion:

  1. Remove your child from play. If your child has been hit in the head, take him or her out of play immediately. Although there is a good chance that he or she has not sustained a concussion, it’s always best to be cautious.
  2. Assess your child’s symptoms. Take inventory of how your child is feeling. Does he or she have any of the common symptoms of concussion?
  3. Consult a health care professional. Immediately following the blow to the head, call your primary care provider to discuss the injury. It’s best to be safe and have your child cleared by a medical professional before returning to play. If your child begins exhibiting any symptoms of concussion, take him or her to the doctor immediately.
  4. Watch for signs. Remember: Concussion symptoms might not present for days or weeks. Keep an eye on your child in the weeks following a blow to the head, and be alert for key concussion indicators.

For the latest information on concussion symptoms, treatment and more, visit the International Concussion Society’s resource library.

5 Tips for Preventing Concussion in Skiing and Snowboarding

What to know before hitting the slopes

Skiing and snowboarding can be great ways for families to bond in the wintertime, as the slopes can provide memories that will last for years to come. But it’s important to have concussion safety in mind to ensure everyone is both happy and safe. Knowing these best practices is particularly important if you or your child participates in skiing or snowboarding competitively.

Below, you’ll find a series of tips that will ensure everyone is as safe as possible when lacing up and hitting the mountains this season:

1. Get the proper equipment

Wearing right helmet and gear is key to preventing an injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers specific guidelines regarding protective equipment and helmets for skiing and snowboarding. Refer to these guidelines for specific information on fit and sizing. In general, helmets should fit snugly, with no space between the head and helmet.

A properly fitting helmet can reduce head injuries by between 30 and 50 percent, according to UPMC. In addition to fitting properly, a helmet should always be well-maintained, age-appropriate, worn consistently and certified for use. If you’re unsure about the fit, head to your local ski shop for an expert opinion and adjustment.

2. Purchase the right attire

When deciding on the best slope attire, you should first look for fabric that is both wind- and water-resistant, which can keep you warm during harsh winter weather. In addition, the National Ski Areas Association notes that you should purchase attire that has wind flaps for zippers, collars that can be fastened up to the chin, drawstrings that can keep out cold winds, and secured cuffs at the wrists and ankles.

Wearing the correct attire can help ensure you’re as safe as possible in the event of a fall or unpredictable weather conditions.

3. Take a lesson from a qualified instructor

This step is crucial if you or anyone you are with is new to the slopes. Taking a lesson from a qualified instructor can ensure you will be well on your way to becoming a good (and safe!) skier, according to the National Ski Protocol (NSP). Building the proper fundamentals will help you avoid bad habits that could lead to an injury now or in the future.

4. Be prepared for weather changes

Weather can be deceiving. It may appear sunny at first, but it can cool down rapidly—leading to icy conditions. The opposite can also happen: It might be very cold, and then the sun will pop out. Being prepared for these weather changes can ensure you are as safe as possible. Be sure to pack gloves, and a headband or hat so that you’re prepared for anything. You should also have goggles on hand, as well as sunglasses to avoid being blinded by sudden sunny conditions.

5. Know the U.S. Skiing concussion policy

If you or your child skis or snowboards competitively, you should review the concussion policy from U.S. Skiing. Reading the policy in full is a good idea for anyone who practices either sport competitively at any level. Worth noting is the policy’s requirement that anyone suspected of having a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, should be removed from play immediately and kept out of play until he or she has been cleared by a medical professional.

If you think you or someone you’re with might have sustained a concussion, stop activity immediately. Contact ski or snowboard patrol to remove you from the slope. For the latest information on concussion symptoms, treatment and more, visit the International Concussion Society’s resources library.

How to Prepare Your Children for Winter Sports

No matter if you are hitting the slopes or stepping on the ice, follow these tips to prevent a sports-related injury during the cold-weather months

Winter activities and sports such as skiing, sledding, hockey and ice skating can increase a child’s risk for concussion. In fact, one 2009 study showed that there were more than 17,000 head injuries due to winter sports in the U.S. Nearly 7,000 of those injuries occurred in children under 14. Help your child avoid concussion due to winter activities and sports with the following tips.


  • Sled in an area with a clear path and avoid obstacles such as fences and trees.
  • Sled feet-first instead of head-first, and have children sit up instead of lying flat.
  • If appropriate, consider having your child wear a helmet while sledding.
  • Dress young children in several thin layers of clothing to keep them dry and warm during outdoor activities. Always remember to pack boots, a hat and gloves.

Skiing and Snowboarding

  • If your child is new to a winter sport, sign them up for lessons taught by a qualified instructor before hitting the slopes. If it’s been a while since your child participated in one of these activities, have them take a brush-up lesson.
  • Ensure your child has a helmet that is well maintained, age appropriate, worn correctly and certified for use.
  • All children skiing or snowboarding should wear helmets and protective eye gear. Additionally, children who ski should have their safety bindings adjusted every year, and children who snowboard should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards, the AAP advises.
  • The CDC offers specific guidelines for skiing helmets. To ensure a ski helmet fits your child properly, make sure it sits low enough in the front to protect the forehead—about an inch above the eyebrows. The back of the helmet should not touch the top of the neck. The CDC also recommends that children try on their helmet to assess fit with the goggles they plan to wear skiing before venturing out.


  • Children should wear helmets that fit properly, are age appropriate and certified for use. Helmets should be replaced after a serious fall or crash, as some helmets are only built to withstand one impact.
  • Ensure your child’s additional ice hockey equipment, such as skates and protective gear, also fit appropriately.
  • The CDC offers specific guidelines for hockey safety. In addition to a properly fitting helmet, hockey players should wear a cage or facemask, throat protector and chin strap. To make sure a helmet fits your child properly, the CDC advises making sure the helmet sits flat on the head and that the rim of the helmet is one finger width above the eyebrow.

Ice Skating

  • Before setting foot on the ice, scope out the skating rink to be aware of any obstacles.
  • Always skate in the same direction as the crowd, avoid quickly skating across the ice, and don’t chew gum or eat candy while skating, according to the AAP.


  • No children under 6 should ride in snowmobiles or ATVs, and only children 16 or older should drive them, according to Brainline.
  • Avoid pulling sledders or skiers using a snowmobile or ATV.
  • Wear appropriate gear. This includes helmets, goggles, waterproof snowmobile suits, waterproof gloves and rubber-soled boots.
  • Only drive when it’s light outside, and stay on marked trails.


Before setting out, it’s important to educate yourself on the common signs and symptoms of concussion. Early signs of concussion, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include headache or a feeling of pressure in the head, temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Changes in behavior, mood and personality can also occur. Seek medical attention if you think your child might be experiencing concussion.

By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can rest assured that your child will be as prepared as possible for winter sports.

How to Prepare Your Children for Athletics

Follow these best practices to reduce the risk of injury

Youth sports can be an excellent way for children to learn about teamwork, remain in optimal health and foster strong, long-lasting relationships with their peers. More competitive team sports, such as football and basketball, can also inspire a healthy dose of competition in young children and even encourage them to be leaders one day.

Before entering your child in athletics, it’s always wise to make sure you follow certain safety best practices to prevent injury. Consult the following guide before enrolling your child in an athletic activity.

Talk to Your Child About Safety

Some children might not be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with specific injuries. For example, studies have shown that children often don’t report symptoms of a concussion because they don’t know what they feel like, according to the Sports Concussion Institute.

Teach your children not only about the signs and symptoms of more serious injuries, like a concussion, but also let them know the importance of speaking up about these symptoms. Because children might be nervous about appearing weak or will want to continue playing, they might not tell their parents or coach about symptoms they’re experiencing.

Purchase the Appropriate Protective Equipment

One way to ensure children enter athletics safely is by making sure they have the appropriate equipment, and that what they will be using—from wrist pads and elbow pads to helmets and mouthguards—meets the highest safety standards.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not only making sure the equipment is in good condition, but also that it fits appropriately and is worn correctly by children at all times. Poorly fitting equipment can increase the likelihood of injury.

Keep Your Children Active During the Off-Season

According to the University of Michigan, one cause of injuries in youth sports can be not enough pre-season conditioning. You can lower risk of injury by keeping your children active during the off-season.

Get a Physical

According to the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), getting a routine physical is one of the most important steps you can take to prepare your child for his or her first game. Though it’s likely your child will be perfectly healthy and ready to hit the field, it’s always wise to rule out any underlying conditions that could increase the risk for an injury. (Many youth sports programs conducted through schools will require a physical before children can enter play.)

Watch for Signs of a Concussion

In addition to teaching your children about the symptoms of more serious injuries like concussions, you as a parent should know these signs so you can be on the lookout for them. Confusion, clumsiness and memory loss are early observable signs of a concussion.

Create an Action Plan

Work with your child’s coach to have an action plan in place if your child is injured. The NCYS notes that most programs will have an emergency plan in place that has already been reviewed by an athletic trainer or emergency medical service. But it can’t hurt to make sure the plan in place meets top safety standards.

By following the above steps, you can rest assured your child will be as safe as possible before his or her first game.

What to Do If You Think Your Child May Have a Concussion

Think your child may have sustained a concussion? Follow these steps.

For any parent, seeing your child in pain is complete agony. And when it comes to a head injury that could potentially be traumatic, it’s especially painful. The question is, what to do next. Concussion symptoms aren’t always visible and don’t always present immediately. But noticing signs of a concussion is crucial in children, as their brains are more susceptible to concussions because they are still growing, according to the Concussion and Brain Injury Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Here is everything you, as a parent, should know about concussions.

Talk to your Children Before the Games Begin

As a parent, you can protect your children by learning about the signs of concussions, and then talking to them about these signs so they know when to speak up. Encouraging children to be open and honest will reinforce that concussions should be taken seriously, and are not something children should “tough out.”

Know When and Where Concussions Can Happen

The common knowledge that many concussions occur in contact sports is accurate, but they can also happen from other activities. The most concussions in youth sports occur in rugby, hockey and football, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. However, concussions can occur in other sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball that don’t offer much protective equipment. In addition, concussions can happen from everyday incidents, such as whiplash from a car accident or falling off a bike, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Understand Concussion Symptoms

Immediately after a head injury, a child with a concussion might experience a headache, the feeling of pressure in the head, momentary loss of consciousness, dizziness, nausea, confusion, slurred speech or fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. Be aware that in some cases, symptoms of a concussion might show up hours, days or even a week after a head injury. More delayed symptoms include: sensitivity to light and noise, difficulty remembering things, irritability, sadness or depression, and difficulty sleeping.

If your child exhibits any of the following dangerous symptoms identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a head injury, go to the emergency room immediately.

  • Inconsolable crying.
  • Refusal to eat.
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • One pupil larger than the other.
  • Difficulty recognizing people or places.
  • Growing exceedingly agitated or restless.
  • Severe drowsiness or inability to wake up.

See a Doctor

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bringing a child who experienced a head injury (even something as small as a slight bump) to the doctor within one to two days of the injury or at the first sign of any symptoms. Even if your child doesn’t show any symptoms, getting him or her examined by a medical professional is a safe step to take. If your child exhibits concussion symptoms following the initial appointment, a follow-up visit should occur.

Provide a Smooth Road for Recovery

Should a concussion be diagnosed, one of the most important factors to ensure the long-term safety of the child is a long recovery process. Children and teenagers can take longer to recover from concussions, notes the CDC. To aid recovery, focus on ensuring your child gets ample rest and is free from as many distractions as possible.

Be mindful that mental rest is as important as physical rest. Activities as minor as studying or playing video games can worsen concussion symptoms, according to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine. You should also give your child extra time to do things and allow for breaks in activities.

In addition, even after your child’s concussion symptoms have subsided, you should be on the lookout for signs of post-traumatic headache. This type of headache typically presents within seven days of a concussion, is often moderately to severely painful, has a pulsing sensation and can persist for months, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

Be Cautious About Returning to Play

Children shouldn’t return to any sports or activities until all symptoms are gone. If a second concussion is experienced before a child heals from the initial concussion, second-impact syndrome—rare, but potentially fatal swelling of the brain—can occur, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. The risk of second-impact syndrome is higher in contact sports like football and hockey, notes the AANS.

By following the above concussion protocol, you can ensure your child will return to health as safely and quickly as possible. For more tools for parents, visit our resource center.

Concussion 101 for Parents

What You Need to Know About Concussions as a Parent

Correctly identifying a concussion and responding appropriately is uniquely challenging because there are few visible symptoms. Because concussions are complex and can be difficult to diagnose, schools and athletic programs may be ill-equipped to recognize and treat them. Parents have the ability to close that gap, and advocate for their child’s health and safety, by educating themselves about the most common form of traumatic brain injury. Whether your child is enrolled in sports programs, or not, here is what every parent should know about concussions.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury where an abrupt bump or jolt that causes the brain to move inside the skull. When sudden force causes the brain to bounce, twist, or hit the inside of the skull, it can cause damage to brain cells and trigger chemical changes to the brain. The side effects of these injuries can take hours or days to appear, making concussions difficult to diagnose in the immediate aftermath of a head injury.

Who is most at risk for a concussion?

Any head injury, no matter how small, can present a risk for concussion, whether it’s whiplash from a fender bender or a stumble on an icy sidewalk. Children’s still-developing brains are more susceptible to concussion than adults, according to the Concussion and Brain Injury Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine, and kids who are active, especially kids who play sports, face an increased risk. Sports played in less structured environments (like pick-up games or unsupervised activities like skateboarding) present additional vulnerability, since they’re less likely to be supervised and have return to play protocols in place.

Where are kids most likely to suffer a concussion?

Football is often at the center of the youth sports concussion conversation, yet data suggests the sports with the highest risk for concussions are football, soccer, rugby and lacrosse. In high school athletics, women’s soccer has the highest concussion incidence, according to a study from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Baseball, rarely considered a contact sport, has a much lower rate of concussion risk, yet that risk is smallest at the professional level, meaning high school, middle school and Little League baseball players may face more head injuries, and ultimately more concussions.The Mayo Clinic notes that, sports with less protective equipment, like soccer or boxing, may actually present a greater risk, which is something all parents should keep in mind.

How do I know if my child has a concussion?

Concussions have few outwardly visible symptoms, and there is a common misconception that concussions only occur after head injuries that lead to loss of consciousness. Common symptoms of concussion include headache, blurred vision, nausea, impaired motor skills and trouble paying attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These can be hard to detect, and require a conversation with your child about their symptoms after a head injury. Everyone’s concussion symptoms are different, and some may take days to appear. Concussion symptoms can last up to two weeks for many people, or even longer for about 20 percent of people with concussion, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Why is it important to recognize the signs of a concussion?

Part of the reason why concussions can have severe, long-lasting side effects is because they often go untreated. In young athletes or children who are active, failing to recognize the possibility of a concussion results in kids returning to play too early, and risking additional head injuries that can compound the effect of a concussion, further amplifying their risk for lasting damage. It can take up to a week for head pain stemming from a concussion to appear, and the longer a concussion is untreated, the greater the risk of long-lasting side effects, like post-traumatic headache, or second impact syndrome—when someone gets a second concussion before the first one had time to heal. If you suspect your child may have suffered a concussion, pay close attention to their symptoms, remove them from play and seek medical attention.

How do I know if it’s time to see a doctor?

Even if your child shows no symptoms of concussion, it’s important to know what to watch for in the days following a head injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a doctor visit within 1-2 days for anything more than a light bump on the head. If your child develops a new or worsening headache, seems more tired, sluggish or uncoordinated, or behaves in any way that seems out of character, seek medical care immediately. Severe danger signs, like loss of consciousness, vomiting, different pupil sizes and difficulty waking up in the days after an injury, may be signs of a brain bleed and require immediate emergency medical care.

Concussions are serious injuries, but unlike an illness or broken bone, they can be difficult for parents to detect. Young children may have difficulty explaining symptoms like sluggishness or disorientation, and older kids and teens, especially athletes, may be tempted to brush off their symptoms. Talking to your child before the issue comes up about the seriousness of head injuries, and being mindful of these signs, can help you identify a concussion and get the treatment he or she needs. For more tools for parents, visit our resource center.