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Sports-related concussions: When can kids return to play?

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If your child is active in sports, chances are pretty good that they may experience a concussion at some point. In most cases, a concussion is mild and will heal quickly. But a concussion may also cause serious and sometimes long-term effects. That's why sports medicine specialist, Nicole Pitts, D.O., says it's important for your child to receive treatment immediately when they've experienced a head trauma. If you’re unfamiliar with concussions, the following will help identify the signs or symptoms of a concussion and how it is treated.

So, what exactly is a concussion? A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

How do you know if your child has a concussion?

Many people think of concussions as losing consciousness (being knocke out). However, concussions can occur even if your child does not lose consciousness. It's also important to know that while some of the symptoms of a concussion can appear immediately after the injury, others may not show up for several days.

What to look for

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Feeling foggy
  • Difficulty focusing/concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Sleeping changes

Sometimes symptoms may be subtle and not obvious and many can last days, weeks or months. This is why it's important to have your child checked out after a head injury.

Red flag symptoms

Some symptoms are very serious and require immediate attention. For loss of consciousness or any of the red flag, or warning, symptoms go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Red flag symptoms include:

  • Blood or fluid coming out of their nose or ears
  • Symptoms of a seizure
  • Lost consciousness (passing out)
  • Worsening headaches
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble walking or standing
  • A change in pupil size (one is bigger than the other, or both are unusually large)
  • Slurring words or trouble speaking
  • Noticeable bruising or a large bump anywhere on the head

When can my child play sports again?

It's important that your child doesn't return to sports on the day of the concussion or until symptoms are resolved and your child is cleared by a medical. After a concussion, children and adolescents can have symptoms that make school more challenging. A sports medicine specialist can assess the symptoms, recommend school accommodations and work closely with school athletic trainers for a collaborative approach in return-to-school and return-to-play.

Meet the specialist

Nicole Pitts, D.O.

Visit her specialty office

Related information

Cook Children's Sports Medicine

The most serious back-t0-school injuries that send kids to the ER

5 Things you should know about sports and concussions

Your child has a concussion. Now what?

Questions? Let us help.

If you would like to speak to one of our staff members or schedule an appointment, please call our office at 682-303-4200.