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A medical style drawing of a human skull spine and brain
The brain and concussions

With fall sports in full swing, the incidence of concussions will be on the rise. A recent study reveals that concussion diagnoses jumped 71% for 10-19 year-olds over the past six years. The good news is that these surges may not truly indicate an increased incidence of concussions sustained by athletes and school-aged children – higher diagnosis rates may be due to increased awareness among athletes, coaches, and parents. Many may still have questions regarding what a concussion is, so let’s clear up some myths through a Q&A.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by an event, such a blow, bump, or jolt that results in a disturbance in the brain’s chemical functions due to a disruption between nerve cell transmissions.  Each concussion will vary depending on where the chemical disturbance is occurring in the brain, resulting in a different set of symptoms between each individual and with each sustained concussion.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Physical Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Balance Issues
  • Vision changes
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Fatigue

Emotional Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • More emotional


  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Foggy
  • Hazy
  • Confusion


  • Sleeping more
  • Sleeping less
  • Trouble falling asleep

Signs and symptoms of concern requiring immediate medical attention include:

  • worsening headache
  • seizures
  • visual disturbances
  • numbness/tingling
  • weakness

Testing for concussions?

Many paper and computerized neurocognitive tools have been developed to measure a child’s cognitive status before and after a concussion.  This may include the common computerized ImPACT Test or the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT 3).  Baseline testing is usually performed by the Athletic Trainers at each local high school.  When a child has a suspected concussion, a new test can be administered to compare to the child’s baseline test.  Although these tests are only one piece of the puzzle, this can provide helpful information in ruling in/out a concussion in combination with the evaluation findings.  Often neurocognitive tests are used to help determine when return to play may be achieved.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Concussion Management & Recovery.