Health Encyclopedia

Concussions: Caution Is a No-Brainer

It's better to miss a game than a whole season. That's the key message of a campaign by the CDC aimed at an underrated health threat: sports-related concussions.

Concussions are a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that causes the soft tissue of the brain to knock against the skull's bony surface. Although they range from mild to severe, they're all serious injuries that can harm the way the brain works. For many of these injuries, the athletes never lose consciousness yet still suffer significant damage.

Concussions can happen to any boy or girl in any sport, says the CDC. The short-term effects of a concussion can generate additional problems that may plague a person through life. When young athletes have a flawed memory, they can have difficulty concentrating in school, relating to other kids, or sleeping well, and these things can have long-term, devastating consequences.

One grave danger occurs when athletes go back to the game before they fully recover from a concussion. In such a case, even a mild blow can cause second-impact syndrome. That can lead to brain swelling, brain damage, and even death. Statistics also show that athletes with a history of concussion are at six times greater risk for another concussion than an athlete with no prior concussion.

Teammates have to keep an eye on each other. Athletes must also let everyone know if they hurt their heads.

Parents should make sure that children wear the right safety gear during all practices and games and that schools have a concussion plan. If you think your athlete has a concussion, the CDC says:

  • Seek medical help at once.

  • Bench your child until a health care professional who knows the return-to-play guidelines says it's OK to play.

  • Tell all your child's coaches about any recent concussion.

For more information about concussions, visit the CDC website.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Jones, Niya, MD
  • Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C