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Recognizing a Concussion

By Charles J. Sprague, M.D.

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​​Organized sports teach children and adolescents how to work as a team, develop leadership, earn respect, learn discipline and stay active. Unfortunately, injury also comes with the territory. Just as a game or practice stops for a pulle​d muscle, sprain or broken bone, if an athlete is suspected to have a possible concussion—it’s time to get off the field.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury resulting from a direct hit or force to the head or neck that causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull. According to the Center for Disease Control, contact sports are second, only to vehicle accidents, as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among individuals 15-24.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Concussions may be mild to severe, but all need to be treated by a medical professional. A common myth is that a person needs to fall unconscious or “black out” in order to have a concussion. This is not always the case. The following are signs and symptoms of a concussion:

  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Behavior change
  • Delayed physical responses
  • Slurred or unclear speech
  • Empty stare
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepy or sleep problems

Serious long-term consequences may occur if a concussion is left untreated. If you suspect that your child may have a concussion or you notice that your child is showing signs or symptoms of a concussion, contact your child’s primary physician right away or take your child to the emergency room.

Prevention of Concussions

The best defense against sustaining a sports-related concussion is to make sure your child:

  • Understands the rules of the game
  • Learns proper training techniques
  • Plays with children his/her age, size and development level

If a child does sustain a head injury during play, the child should be removed from play and evaluated by a medical professional.

As the parent, you can ask your child’s coach for the plan of action if a child is injured during the activity. Remember, you are the parent and if you feel your child has received any injury that should be medically evaluated, you have the authority to remove your child from play and seek medical care.

Nebraska Law Regarding Concussions

Nebraska is one of 26 states that signed a Concussion Safety Law (LB 260), requiring schools to offer trainings to coaches on how to recognize the symptoms and to seek proper medical treatment for a concussion or brain injury. The law also requires immediate removal from the practice or game if the athlete is suspected to have a concussion or brain injury. In order to return to play, the athlete must be cleared by a licensed medical professional.