The CDC estimates that approximately 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur annually in the United States. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to either the head or the body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes.
A concussion may occur with or without a loss of consciousness. Signs and symptoms can show up right after the injury or may not be noticed until days or weeks later. Standard neuroimaging studies are typically normal; therefore, concussion is a clinical diagnosis.
The most common symptom is headache. However, children and teens with concussion may exhibit any of the following:
Pre-season concussion screenings are relatively new to youth sports, but obtaining pre-injury baseline data on athletes who engage in contact sports can make sideline assessment more accurate. Concussion screenings are typically a short computerized test that measures selected brain processes, such as word description and memory. It also measures processing speed and reaction time. The scores obtained at completion establishes each athlete's baseline score. Without establishing an individual's baseline, the athlete's post-injury performance on assessment must be interpreted by comparison with a generalized "normal" based on a large population sample. In the event, an athlete sustains a concussion during the season, he or she can take a re-test and the scores will be compared to the baseline. These computerized tests do not diagnose concussion, however they can be helpful during the management or treatment of a concussion. The changes or improvements in scores over time can assist in evaluating progress toward recovery.
The following is a list of some of the computerized concussion screening programs available:
- Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT)
- King-Devick Test for Concussions
- Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT)
- Concussion Resolution Index (CRI)
What should you do if you think your child has a concussion? SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION RIGHT AWAY. A health care professional will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child to return to regular activities, including sports.