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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health


Sports and Concussion

For kids—of all ages—reducing blows to the head by playing sports safely and avoiding falls is vital to a healthy life.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to move around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging connections within the brain and brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.

Medical providers may describe a concussion as a "mild" traumatic brain injury (TBI), but concussions are only "mild" relative to life-threatening "severe" TBI. TBI of all severities, including concussion, are serious and require medical attention.

Though hitting your head during a fall or in a car accident are the most common causes of concussions, they also can occur while playing sports.

Symptoms of a concussion may not start right away. They may start days or weeks after the injury. Symptoms may include a headache or neck pain. You may also have nausea, irritability, dizziness, loss of concentration, or tiredness. You may feel dazed or not your normal self for several days or weeks after the injury. Consult your healthcare provider if any of your symptoms get worse, or if you have more serious symptoms, such as

  • Seizures
  • Trouble walking or sleeping
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech

Health professionals use a neurologic exam and imaging tests to diagnose a concussion. Most people recover fully after a concussion, but it can take some time. Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal.

Summer 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 2 Page 10