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Concussion ABCs: Learn How to Respond

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Even what seems to be a mild bump to the head can be serious.

How Can Concussions Happen in Schools?

Photo: Children in a swing.Children and adolescents are among those at greatest risk for concussion. Concussions can result from a fall, or any time a student's head comes into contact with a hard object, such as a floor, desk, or another student's head or body. The potential for a concussion is greatest during activities where collisions can occur, such as during physical education (PE) class, playground time, or school-based sports activities.

Students may also get a concussion when doing activities outside of school, but then come to school when symptoms of the concussion are presenting. For example, adolescent drivers are at increased risk for concussion from motor vehicle crashes.

Concussions can have a more serious effect on a young, developing brain and need to be addressed correctly. Proper recognition and response to concussion symptoms in the school environment can prevent further injury and can help with recovery.

What Can I Do to Prevent and Prepare for Concussions?

Here are some steps you can take to prevent concussions in school and ensure the best outcome for your students:

Download or order CDC's "Heads Up to Schools: Know Your Concussion ABCs" resources. Developed in collaboration with over 30 school, health, and medical organizations, the "Heads Up to Schools: Know Your Concussion ABCs," materials include free resources for school nurses, administrators, counselors, teachers, parents, and students.See Heads Up to Schools, Know Your Concussion ABC's.

Prepare a concussion action plan. To ensure that concussions are identified early and managed correctly, have an action plan in place before the start of the school year. This plan can be included in your school or district's concussion policy. See online action plan for sports and recreation activities.

Create safe school environments. Make sure your school has policies and procedures to ensure that the environment is a safe, healthy place for students. Talk to all school staff and administrators and encourage them to keep the physical space safe, keep stairs and hallways clear of clutter, secure rugs to the floor, and check the surfaces of all areas where students are physically active, such as playing fields and playgrounds. Playground surfaces should be made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood mulch or sand, and maintained to an appropriate depth. Proper supervision of students is also important.

Monitor the health of your student athletes. Make sure to ask whether an athlete has ever had a concussion and insist that your athletes are medically evaluated and are in good condition to participate in sports. Keep track of athletes who sustain concussions during the school year. This will help in monitoring injured athletes who participate in multiple sports throughout the school year.

Follow us on Facebook and learn more about concussion and how to help prevent, recognize, and respond to this serious injury at: www.cdc.gov/Concussion.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: August 20, 2012
  • Page last updated: August 20, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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