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Signs of a Concussion In Youth Athletes

What is a concussion?[1]

A concussion is a type of brain injury that can occur from a blow to the head, a blow to the body that causes a jerking motion of the head and brain, or fall resulting head impact. A concussion is a serious event requiring medical attention. Signs and symptoms of a concussion may present immediately following a head injury, or days or even weeks after initial injury.

Signs of a Concussion

  • Loss of consciousness:  A loss of consciousness is not required for a concussion diagnosis. However, if a child loses consciousness, they should be removed from sport until cleared to return by a physician.
  • Confusion:  A child may appear dazed, be confused about his/her position, or be unsure of the score.
  • Changes in memory: A child may forget events that happened directly preceding the incident, or may forget events that happened directly after.
  • Reported changes in vision:  A child may report double vision, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision.
  • Balance problems:  A child may report balance issues or dizziness; a parent or coach may observe an increase in clumsiness or falls
  • Changes in activity level:  A child may report feeling sluggish or groggy; he/she may also report “not feeling right.”

Warning Signs of Emergent Injury

  • One pupil is larger than the other
  • Cannot recognize familiar faces
  • Child cannon be awakened
  • Unusual behavior
  • Worsening headache
  • Loses consciousness
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Becomes increasingly confused or agitated
  • Convulsions

If you see one or more of these signs, dial 9-1-1 or take the child to the emergency room immediately!

If you feel your child has had a concussion, it is recommended that they are cleared by a physician prior to return to sport. A physical therapist can help treat post-concussion symptoms, such as neck pain, balance deficits, and vision/vestibular issues. Please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy for a return-to-sport physical therapy evaluation. 


[1] “Heads Up, Concussion in Youth Sports.” CDC. Center for Disease Control, n.d. Web.

Concussions are More Common in Teens than Once Thought

A research letter was published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Tuesday, June 25 which concussionsummarized findings from a recent Canadian study examining concussions in teenagers.  The Canadian research team found that concussion rates in adolescents are much higher than previously thought.

What is the prevalence of concussions in teens?

1 out of every 5 teenagers completing the research project indicated that they had sustained a concussion.  These numbers are high, and there are some flaws with generalizing these numbers to the population as a whole.  This was a survey research project in which the examiners asked teenagers a series of questions about head injuries and academic performance.  Although the likelihood of 1 in 5 teenagers having sustained a concussion is probably not realistic, it is known that head injuries are quite common at rates that are greater than suspected in the past.

Why is it important to know the incident rates of concussions?

The importance of knowing about the incident rates of concussions is that there are numerous known behavioral and emotional variables associated with head injuries.  Adolescents who have sustained a head injury are at risk for learning problems, substance abuse, and emotional concerns.

What does this mean as a parent or teacher?  If you notice a teenager exhibiting a sudden change in academic performance, behavior, or emotional regulation, you want to have an evaluation immediately.  Speak to your child’s pediatrician about a possible neurological or neuropsychological evaluation in order to help determine the possible cause for the changes, as one possible reason might be a sustained head injury.

To read the full Chicago Tribune article on this study, click here.  To learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychology Diagnostic Program for children and teens, click below.

Physical Therapy Posts

Girl with headache

The Role of the Physical Therapist in Post-Concussion Management



In our blog on Signs of Concussion in Youth Athletes, it became evident that a concussion can result in a wide variety of negative signs and symptoms. Following such an injury, many young athletes are eager to return to their sport. However, complete physical and mental rest are the best things to help the brain recover, and are absolutely necessary during the first 24 hours following a concussion. A physical therapist can be an integral member of the child’s concussion management team in preparing the child to return to sport, or in helping to address impairments resulting from the concussion that may be limiting the child’s school or daily functioning. Below is a list of interventions a physical therapist may be able to provide to a child who suffered a concussion injury:

  • Girl with headacheManagement of neck pain or cervicogenic headache: A cervicogenic headache is one that is caused by injury or tightness in the neck muscles or due to limitations in mobility of the neck joints. Since these structures attach to your skull, impairments there can result in headaches. Your physical therapist can help with manual therapy and exercises to increase mobility of these structures in order to alleviate headaches.
  • Balance and coordination training: It is very common to have balance or coordination difficulties following a concussion. A physical therapist can help to re-train and strengthen these systems in order to restore function.
  • Graded return to physical activity: When your child has been cleared by the pediatrician to return to physical activity, the physical therapist can help with a gradual return to activity while closely monitoring concussion symptoms. It is important to ease back into exercise starting with light aerobic activities before participating in moderate or intense physical activities or sport-specific training.
  • Gradual return to specific sport: Once the athlete has returned to aerobic exercise with no worsening of symptoms, the physical therapist can then begin to introduce sport-specific training drills and gradual return to practice and competition.

It is important to note that your child should be closely monitored by your pediatrician or primary care physician initially following the injury, as well as frequently throughout your child’s course of treatment. Your physical therapist should also update your pediatrician with your child’s symptoms and response with return to physical activity. Please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists if your child has recently suffered a concussion or continues to suffer from post-concussion impairments.