Brain, Nervous System and Mental Conditions

Sports Concussions

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head or body that makes the brain move back and forth quickly inside the skull. It can happen to any athlete – girl or boy – in any sport. Concussions are seen most often in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and cheerleading.

Your child does not have to lose consciousness or be "knocked out" to have a concussion.

Concussions in Children and Teens

Children and teens take longer to get better from concussions and go back to normal activities than adults. That's because their brains are still growing and developing, so they need more time to heal.

Most kids get better after a concussion without any permanent damage. Signs or symptoms of a concussion may last for days, weeks or longer after the injury.

When the symptoms of a concussion continue for months, it is called post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Doctors and researchers do not know why most athletes recover in one to two weeks and yet some take months to recover from concussions.

If your child returns to play before the brain heals from the original concussion, any additional bump or blow can cause more damage. This second impact can make the symptoms last longer or cause "second impact syndrome" – a very rare but devastating brain injury that happens when the brain has not fully recovered and is injured again. This is why all children and teens in Washington state must get written approval from a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider trained in the evaluation and treatment of concussions before returning to sports or other physical activity.

If your child has had a concussion before, the chance of sustaining another one during their youth is higher. Tell the coach, athletic trainer and healthcare provider if your child has ever had a concussion.

If your child has had a concussion, they should be seen by a healthcare provider to find out what sports are safe for them to play.