Six Things You Need to Know About Concussions

Nearly 1 in 5 high school athletes will experience a concussion during the playing season! Concussions happen not only during football season, but also in baseball, soccer, softball and other non-contact sports as well.

Dr. Adam Breiner, who practices family medicine at The NeuroEdge Brain Performance Center, shares six things parents, teachers, and coaches need to know about concussions so that they can protect the young people in their care:

1. Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) do real damage to the brain. Concussions and TBI occur when the brain suddenly shifts within the skull—usually as the result of a sudden blow, jolt, or change of direction (e.g., whiplash). A football tackle, being hit with a baseball or softball, heading a soccer ball, or tripping and falling are just a few of the athletic scenarios that can result in TBI.

2. That damage can have long-term effects. Because children’s brains are still growing, they are especially vulnerable to concussions. The damage caused by TBI can impair normal development. Potential long-term effects of childhood concussions include abnormal brain activity that lasts for years, memory problems, attention deficits, difficulty handling anger, language impairment, personality changes, difficulty making decisions, “foggy” thinking, and more.

“The bottom line is, a childhood concussion can adversely affect an individual’s personal and professional success throughout his lifetime,” confirms Dr. Breiner.

3. Multiple concussions are especially dangerous. If a child is concussed a second time while a previous brain injury is still healing, she may experience more serious symptoms, a longer recovery time, and even permanent cognitive and neurological damage. Since TBI is not a visible injury, multiple concussions are a major concern—especially for young athletes. Make sure your children have fully healed before returning to sports.

4. The signs of concussion can range from mild to severe. The immediate effects of a concussion can be subtle or very noticeable. Some of the most common post-concussive symptoms include headache, visual blurring, light sensitivity, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and balance problems, nausea, memory dysfunction, and fatigue. When in doubt—whether you notice symptoms or not—it’s always smart to get your child checked out after a blow to the head.

5. The first and best line of defense is prevention. No, you can’t raise your child in a bubble, but you can take precautions to lower his risk of becoming concussed. If your child participates in an activity where falls or blows to the head are a possibility, make sure he wears a helmet. (This page from the CDC is a good resource for learning about proper fit and maintenance for various types of helmets.)

“If your child plays a sport and you see unsafe behaviors happening in practices or games, speak up,” urges Dr. Breiner. “Likewise, voice your concerns if you believe coaches and other parents aren’t taking head injuries seriously. Remove your child from the team if changes aren’t made. While I don’t believe that the risk of concussion means that parents should pull their children out of sports, I am a strong advocate of taking all reasonable precautions to keep young athletes safe.”

6. The standard wait-and-rest advice may not be good enough. If your child suffers from a concussion (or one is suspected), you’ll most likely be advised to make sure that she rests physically and mentally for a few days. But don’t stop there. According to Dr. Breiner, the biggest mistake most parents and coaches make is assuming that everything is okay when a youngster appears to have returned to normal after a few days of downtime. “Remember, damage may be present that you can’t see—and the only way to ascertain whether healing is complete is via functional brain imaging and other tests,” he says.

Fortunately, the more science uncovers about the brain, the better we’re able to diagnose concussions and prevent negative long-term effects. “Each brain’s cognitive abilities and electrical function is unique—meaning that ‘healing’ will look different for each person,” Dr. Breiner shares. “For this reason, it’s highly recommended that children and teens—especially athletes—get baseline tests (including neurocognitive testing and an EEG) before the athletic season begins. Having this baseline data on hand helps doctors evaluate the severity of the injury and determine when it’s safe for your child to return to prior activities.”

Adam Breiner, ND, is the medical director of The NeuroEdge Brain Performance Center, a division of The Breiner Whole-Body Health Center in Fairfield, CT. The Center is focused on helping patients with neurological conditions. For more information, visit or To make an appointment, please call (203) 371-8258.