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Concussion Education Best Practices: A Parent's Checklist

Virtually every state in the country now requires that parents and athletes receive some basic concussion safety information as a condition to participation.

Here's a checklist of what experts say all parents need to know:

1. The signs and symptoms of concussion

  • symptoms (headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual problems, sensitivity to light/noise, balance problems);
  • physical signs (loss of consciousness, unsteady gait/balance problems/dazed facial expression)
  • impaired brain function (confusion, feeling mentally "foggy," feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating and remembering a/k/a amnesia); 
  • abnormal behavior (change in personality, irritability, sadness, nervousness, more emotional, depression); and/or
  • sleep disturbances (insomnia, drowsiness, sleeping less than usual, sleeping more than usual).

2. The importance of encouraging athletes to honestly self-report concussion signs or symptoms and creating an environment in which athletes feel safe in self-reporting.

3. The importance of watching for delayed symptomsincluding behavioral changes, and concentration and memory problems, which may only appear hours or even days after a strong blow to the body or head during practice or game action.  Delayed symptom onset is especially common among younger athletes.​

4. The need to regularly and close monitor athletes during the first 24-48 hours after diagnosed concussion for signs of deteriorating mental condition suggesting a more serious brain injury which requires immediate hospitalization.​

5. The need for cognitive and physical rest in the first few days after concussion, including staying home from school.

6. The importance of a gradual return to school and a gradual return to sports; and

7. The dangers of continuing to play with concussion symptoms and returning to play too soon, before a child or teen's still-developing brain has fully healed, including increased risk of ​adverse short- and long-term, and even catastrophic health consequences, which can include:

  • longer recovery time; 
  • increased likelihood of a second concussion;
  • persistent symptoms which may linger for weeks or months (e.g, post-concussion syndrome); 
  • permanent cognitive difficulties (problems with memory and concentration), and emotional problems; up to
  • devastating degenerative neurological disease, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. 

The precise effects of traumatic brain injury such as resulting from concussion and repetitive head impacts, and the degree they increase the risk of long-term health problems is still unknown and will vary tremendously among student-athletes.

8. The need for more conservative management of concussions in children and teens as compared to college-age athletes and adults.