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

Jennifer J. Beck, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery
If you think your child, a student athlete, has a concussion, you will notice certain signs, such as a little grogginess or a little inattentiveness, that coaches may not pick up on. The most important thing is not to let an athlete return to a sport until the symptoms of concussion are evaluated. Seek care from a sports medicine provider right away or the next day so that you can make sure that your student athlete is diagnosed and properly treated.

Coaches usually only know the basics of concussion management, but if your school has an athletic trainer or medical provider, that is someone you could consult with. Don't ignore possible concussion symptoms. The risk of a second injury to the head can make your student athlete's symptoms, and the diagnosis and treatment, much more difficult.
Christopher Giza, MD
“When in doubt, sit them out” is a safe mantra if a child has a suspected concussion. Diagnosing a concussion can be challenging, and it is not necessary for parents or coaches to make a concussion diagnosis on the sideline. It is important that parents and coaches know the signs and symptoms of concussion, and if a concussion is suspected -- if a child takes a hit on the playing field and has some of the typical signs and symptoms -- then that child should be removed from play and not allowed to return the same day.

Next, the child should be observed and have his/her symptoms monitored. Children with typical symptoms may be monitored at home by a responsible adult. The next important step is for the child to be evaluated by a licensed medical professional with experience in pediatric concussions. This evaluation may be via phone call, urgent care or clinic appointment, but in most cases does not require an emergency room visit. “Red flags” that may warrant more urgent medical evaluation include unconsciousness, persistent memory loss or confusion, seizure, worsening headaches, repeated vomiting, severe neck pain or paralysis.
If your child has a head injury, it's important to keep a close eye on them. In this video, I will explain that vomiting, confusion, severe headache and loss of consciousness are all signs you need to call your doctor.
If your child is participating in a sport, or otherwise has a blow to the head that results in a change in the level of consciousness or loss of consciousness, it's important to seek medical care, and your pediatrician or health-care provider can advise you what to do immediately for the concussion and what to do down the road to make sure that their return to activities is as safe as possible.

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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.