Patient Education

Concussion: What is a Sports Concussion?

A concussion is a short-lived brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. A variety of symptoms may develop and typically resolve over time. An athlete can suffer a concussion in any sport. Contact or collision sports, such as football, soccer, wrestling, ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby, have the highest incidence of concussion. Most concussions appear without loss of consciousness. Rarely is there a structural injury noted on MRI or CT scan. Even when the physical, and sometimes emotional, symptoms of a concussion have disappeared, the brain may not be healed.

Athletes who suffer a concussion are three to five times more likely to suffer a second concussion in the same season. Sustaining a repeat concussion, while recovering from a concussion, is dangerous. This is called second impact syndrome and can potentially cause brain swelling and brain damage. Your athletes can avoid further injury by not playing with a concussion.


What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Concussions don’t always cause a loss of consciousness. The most common signs and symptoms observed by Coaches or Parents are:

  • A dazed or stunned appearance
  • Confusion or clumsiness
  • Slow responses to questions
  • Personality or behavioral changes
  • Loss of consciousness – even temporary
  • Forgets plays or assignments
  • Forgetting play prior to or after the “hit”
  • Symptoms reported by Athletes:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Changed sleep patterns
  • Trouble comprehending and/or concentrating
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Depression
  • Irritability, nervousness or sadness
  • Feeling “just not right” or in a “fog”

Concussion symptoms can worsen with physical and mental activity, such as using your computer, gaming system or texting.
Danger Signs To Watch For:
Seek medical treatment from the nearest hospital emergency immediately, if you notice any of the following danger signs or  severe symptoms within the first 24-48 hours:

  • One pupil larger than the other
  • Is drowsy and cannot be awakened
  • A headache that does not diminish, and gets worse
  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Cannot recognize people or places
  • Becomes increasingly confused, restless or agitated
  • Has unusual behavior
  • Loses consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)


When can I return to play?
Recovery from a concussion starts immediately with physical and mental rest and may take days to several weeks. This means no activity. The athlete remains under the observation of an adult or healthcare professional during their recovery.
Athletes should not return to play until the appropriate healthcare professional ensures that they are totally symptom-free and approved to start a gradual stepwise progression. Once the signs and symptoms of a concussion have resolved, gradual stepwise exertion (such as light aerobic training) is started. The athlete can then move on to sport specific training. Non-contact drills are followed by full-contact drills, and, if no symptoms appear, a return to competition.
If at any point signs or symptoms of concussion recur, the athlete must be reevaluated, rest and be symptom free at rest before returning back to stepwise progression.