Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Q: My son starts football this fall and I’m worried about him getting a concussion. Can you tell me more about concussions?

A: Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that change how the brain normally works. A person can get a concussion from an indirect whiplash injury or a direct hit to the head. Even a minor hit can be serious.  Concussions are common injures in football.  They are not always identified immediately so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of concussions. 

Here are some signs you or another adult may notice:

Person appears dazed or confused

  • Forgetful
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Seems more emotional (sadness, irritability, nervousness)
  • Can’t recall events before or after the hit or injury

Here’s a list of some symptoms athletes report:

  • Headaches
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering (especially in school)
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling slowed down or mentally “foggy”

If you think your son has suffered from a concussion, have him stop playing immediately and get him checked out by a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Medical providers can perform several office tests to determine if your son has had a concussion.

If your child has a concussion, rest is the best treatment. Rest includes physical rest (sports, gym and recess) plus mental rest (school, computer and any electronic devices). Your health care provider should oversee how quickly your son can return to normal activities. The new concussion law in Wisconsin says that an athlete cannot return to play unless cleared by a health professional trained in concussion management. It’s important that your child gets the treatment he needs. Children and young adults often experience more symptoms and take longer to recover than adults.

Why is it important to take these measures? A person whose brain is still healing from a concussion is more susceptible to another concussion. Repeated concussions lead to worsening symptoms, brain damage both short and possibly long term. In rare cases death can occur from repeat concussions, referred to as second impact syndrome in athletes. Long-term consequences recognized in professional football athletes is a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Identifying and treating concussions correctly is essential to your child’s short and long term health.

By Willa Fornetti, DO, sports medicine physician, ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus in Appleton.