Responding to a Sports-related Concussion

Key points

  • Remove the athlete from sports participation right away if a concussion is suspected.
  • Check the athlete for concussion danger signs.
  • Keep the athlete out of sports participation the day of the injury and until cleared by a healthcare provider.

Steps to take

Remove the athlete from practice or competition

If an athlete has a possible concussion, you should:

  1. Remove them from sports participation right away.
  2. Check the athlete for concussion danger signs. An athlete experiencing concussion danger signs needs to go to the emergency department right away.
  3. Keep the athlete out of sports participation the same day of the injury and until cleared by a healthcare provider to begin the return-to-sports protocol.

Do not try to judge the severity of a concussion yourself. Only a healthcare provider should assess an athlete for a possible concussion. After an athlete with a possible concussion is removed from sports participation, the decision about return to sports is a medical decision that should be made by a healthcare provider.

Athletes who return to sports participation too soon—while their brain is still healing—have a greater chance of getting a repeat concussion. Repeat concussions can be very serious. They can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.

Seek medical care

An athlete with a possible concussion needs to be seen by a healthcare provider. Most athletes who have a concussion are treated in the emergency department or a medical office and get to go home to recover. An athlete may need to stay in the hospital overnight if the injury is more serious. Through telemedicine or telehealth services, patients may get checked for concussion symptoms and get recovery tips without needing to travel to a medical office or hospital. You may consider using telemedicine and telehealth services if you are unable to visit a healthcare provider in person.

What to tell the health care provider

Be sure to tell the athlete's healthcare provider if the athlete is taking medications—prescription, over-the-counter medicines, or "natural remedies." When possible, share the following information:

  • Cause of the injury and force of the hit or blow to the head or body
  • Any loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out) and if so, for how long
  • Any memory loss right after the injury
  • Any seizures right after the injury
  • Number of previous concussions (if any)

What to expect

Tests for concussion and brain injury

A healthcare provider may do a scan of the athlete's brain (such as a CT scan) if there are signs of a more serious brain injury. Other tests such as "neuropsychological" or "neurocognitive" tests may also be performed. These tests help assess the athlete's learning and memory skills, the ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she can think and solve problems. These tests can help the athlete's healthcare provider identify the effects of the concussion.