Are You Ready For Some Football? A Discussion on Concussions
Written by: Matthew Baldwin, Student Resident at Cone Health
Football season is just around the corner and with all of the gridiron glory that comes with a new football season also comes some drawbacks: more dirty laundry, two-a-days, late Friday nights, and (for most parents) worry. With new interest in the lasting effects of concussions being discussed on the professional level, comes rising anxiety that most parents have about their children playing contact sports. Hopefully some answers to these frequently asked questions below will help address some concerns that you might have.
How prevalent are concussions? The short answer is pretty prevalent; somewhere between 1.6- 3.7 million sports-related concussions take place every year. In US high school football it is estimated that as many as 20% of players will sustain a concussion every season. Football isn’t the only culprit however, as sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball all demonstrate risk for concussion.
What is a concussion? While there is no singular definition as to exactly what constitutes a concussion, the most widely agreed upon description of a concussion comes from the American Academy of Neurology who clarify that a concussion is a “trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness.” 
How do I know if my child has a concussion? There are many signs and symptoms to look for that might suggest your child is experiencing a concussion. Common signs include a vacant stare, slowed speech, disorientation (eg. not recognizing familiar surroundings), poor coordination, a change in personality, and a loss of consciousness. Common symptoms include headache, amnesia, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, sleep disturbances, vision changes, and sensitivity to light or sound.
What should I do if I suspect my child has a concussion? First and foremost, remove your child from play. Next, have them examined by a trained professional who can administer a neurological exam to determine if your child might have a concussion. Most high school sporting events will have someone in attendance trained in how to administer these tests, but if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to take your child to see a physician. If a trainer believes your child to have a concussion, they should instruct you to see a physician who can further evaluate and manage your child’s condition
When can my child return to play? NO athlete should be allowed to return to play while signs or symptoms of concussion are present. Currently, most guidelines suggest that players not be permitted to resume participation in sports until they have been completely SYMPTOM FREE for AT LEAST ONE WEEK.
Hopefully these questions and answers could respond to some of your concerns. For a more comprehensive discussion on concussions, feel free to visit the CDC’s website on concussions: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/. Game On!