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Sports-related Concussion
Categories: Brain Injury


My son recently collided with another player during football practice. The coach pulled him out, but now he is complaining of a headache and has trouble recalling events that happened before the collision. He wants to return to practice. Is it safe?


Your son may be suffering from a concussion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussion occur each year.

You are wise to be concerned about your son’s return to practice. Second impact syndrome occurs when an athlete experiences a second concussion, generally within ten days of the first injury. Changes in brain function due to a concussion can last 7 to 10 days or longer following the injury. If the athlete sustains a second concussion during this time period, the risk of brain injury increases dramatically. Second impact syndrome has led to severe brain damage and death in some instances.

“Few people realize how pervasive sports concussions have become, especially in younger athletes,” said Jennifer Silber-Carr, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Clinical Director for the May Center School for Brain Injury and Neurobehavioral Disorders. “Learning the facts about concussions is the first step in protecting young athletes from permanent brain damage or death.”

Athletes with concussion may experience a wide variety of symptoms including:
  • Headache or nausea
  • Balance problems or confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Sluggish or foggy feeling
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Memory problems

Parents and coaches may notice that the athlete:
  • Appears dazed, stunned, or confused
  • Moves clumsily
  • Forgets events prior to play or after hit
  • Shows behavior or personality change

As a parent, you can protect your son from the risk of second impact syndrome by making sure he is fully recovered before allowing him to return to play. A full medical evaluation should be performed and you may want to speak with your son’s doctor and coach about neuropsychological testing, proven to be one of the most effective indicators of concussion.

Jennifer Silber-Carr, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is the Clinical Director for the May Center School for Brain Injury and Neurobehavioral Disorders in Brockton, Mass.