We should all know by now that a concussion is more serious than simply “having your bell rung.” And while young athletes make up a significant portion of those sustaining these head injuries each year, many parents don't know the most common signs to watch for, says Dr. Javier Rios, sports medicine specialist at Houston Methodist.
Up to 40% of Rios’ patients are children ages 16 and younger — the majority being student-athletes who have suffered a blow or jolt to the head while playing soccer or football. According to Dr. Rios, the most common concussion symptoms include:
- Balance or coordination problems
Lesser-known signs are also important to watch for, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
“Kids may forget where they put their homework or even forget what their name is,” Dr. Rios says. “Sometimes, emotional issues result, like sadness or irritability, or parents notice a behavioral change in their kids, saying they’re just not acting the way they usually do.”
Questions to ask your child if you suspect a concussion
If you suspect your child may have suffered a concussion during sports practice or another competition, Dr. Rios suggests asking “orientation questions,” such as:
- What’s your name?
- What month and year is it?
- Do you remember what happened just before your injury?
- How do you feel?
If your child’s answers seem off, it’s imperative to make an appointment with a health care professional trained in concussion evaluation and management right away, Dr. Rios says.
Depending on what the doctor says, your child may be held from school and sports for a period of time to allow the brain to rest.
“The best cure for concussion is prevention, so stress the importance of playing by the rules of their sport. Kids should also wear appropriate equipment and demonstrate good sportsmanship,” Dr. Rios says. “If your child does experience any concussion symptoms, he or she should immediately report it to the coach, referee or athletic trainer.