How dangerous are concussions for children?

Although most concussions are not life threatening, children should be protected from head blows as much as possible—especially since younger athletes have potential for greater exposure to multiple concussions over time. Because young brains are still growing and making connections, there is some evidence that concussions may interfere with brain development.

Dr. Christopher C. Giza, MD

Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury and so should be taken seriously. There are concerns that the young brain may be more vulnerable to effects of this injury, and because it is difficult to determine symptoms in younger children it is possible to miss them. Severe brain swelling after concussion is fortunately very rare, but these cases tend to be reported more in adolescents and children than in adults, so it is important that those evaluating a child for suspected concussion be able to determine when something more serious may be happening. The biggest practical risk for a child after a concussion is their increased risk of getting another concussion, particularly if they return to contact risk while still injured. The good news is that about 90% of kids with diagnosed concussion, if properly protected from repeat injuries and managed carefully, will recover fully in a few weeks.

If the concussion is recognized and the child is treated for it, he or she will recover fully. Concussions can become more dangerous if there are repeated injuries, especially if another injury happens before the brain fully heals from the first injury. In this situation there is a greater chance of a longer recovery, more severe symptoms and rarely, permanent problems such has chronic headaches, learning difficulties and emotional problems such as depression. Experts believe that having another injury on top of an active concussion can also cause death from brain swelling, but this is extremely rare.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.