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Concussion in Children

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury. Concussions are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. They can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Even a “ding” or a bump on the head can be serious.

What are the signs and symptoms?

You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or can take days or weeks to appear. If your child reports any symptoms of concussion, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away.

Signs Observed by Parents

If your child has experienced a bump or blow to the head during a game, practice or activity, look for any of the following signs and symptoms of a concussion: Appears dazed or stunned, Is confused about assignment or position, forgets an instruction, is unsure of game, score, or opponent, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness (even briefly), shows behaviour or personality changes, can't recall events prior to hit or fall, can't recall events after hit or fall.

Symptoms Reported by child

A child may complain about some of the following: a headache or "pressure" in head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, double or blurry vision, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, feeling sluggish, foggy or groggy, concentration or memory problems.

What should you do?
  1. 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 sports. 
  2. Keep your child out of play. Concussions take time to heal. Don’t let your child return to play until a health care professional says it’s OK. Athletes who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing—risk a greater chance of having a second concussion. Second or later concussions can be very serious. They can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime. 
  3. Tell all of your child’s coaches about any recent concussion. Coaches should know if your child had a recent concussion in ANY sport or activity. Your child’s coaches may not know about a concussion your child received in another sport or activity unless you tell them. Knowing about the concussion will allow the coach to keep your child from activities that could result in another concussion.

Assessing concussion

Every concussion is a brain injury and injuries need evaluation, adaptations in routine and time to heal. This is especially true in children and adolescents whose brain tissue has increased vulnerability when compared to that of an adult as their brain is still developing.  The need for a concussed child to rest physically and cognitively is vital.

They must be evaluated and monitored in their school work as well as their physical recovery. Teachers are in a very good position to notice these changes which can lead to early intervention. They are often the first to notice subtle changes in the child’s ability to concentrate, remember new information and interact with peers. Tests taken while the child is still symptomatic may affect academic achievement levels. For example a child who gets frequent headaches may have difficulty concentrating in class or who fatigues easily may find it difficult to pay attention in class or complete tasks.

A neuropsychological assessment can give more comprehensive information about how the injury will affect the child in the classroom and in every day functioning. The psychologist specializing in this area will be able to provide information on the child’s ability to problem-solve, to learn on repeated trials, how he or she will do if distractions are present, and if the child can perform motor or processing tasks easily. This information is combined with that of other rehabilitation professionals (occupational, physical, and speech therapists), nurses, teachers, and social workers.

Psychotherapy and cognitive rehabilitation are also vital for the adjustment and life change that may have occurred.  Input from the child’s parents and as well as the child, is important, as they know performance before the accident and of any difficulties experienced post accident.

For further information please contact:

Despina Papanicolaou (Counselling Psychologist)
Just Being Holistic
63 Adelaide Tambo Drive, Durban North
0761 553 999 / 031 811 4002 /

Further information regarding concussion, assessment and management please go to /