Skip to main content

Today's Family Magazine

Kids sports and concussions

Oct 17, 2016 11:37AM ● By Today's Family
By Cleveland Clinic

School sports are underway – a good time to review the playbook when it comes to kids, contact sports and concussions.

“Coaches, trainers and parents are becoming more educated about concussions, and the importance of treating a concussion promptly and properly to avoid any potential complications,” says Carly Day, MD, a sports and exercise medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center. 

Dr. Day sets the record straight about seven common misconceptions:

Myth #1: Concussions are mainly a football problem.
Truth: There are 30 million children in organized sports throughout the country and concussions can occur during any activity including soccer, gymnastics, baseball, softball, hockey and lacrosse. 

Myth #2: Kids are getting sports-related concussions at a higher rate.
Truth: Concussion rates are likely not any higher recently, but over the past five to ten years there is an increased awareness of the seriousness of concussions which can lead to increased reporting of symptoms.

Myth #3: Headaches are a normal part of contact sports.
Truth: Headaches don’t always mean there has been a concussion but if there is any question, the athlete should be evaluated by a medical professional.  Aside from headaches, other concussion symptoms may include light sensitivity, fatigue, dizziness, sleep disruption and nausea.

Myth #4: You have to lose consciousness to have a concussion.
Truth: Only a small percentage of concussions involve a loss of consciousness.

Myth #5: Your child must go to the emergency room for a concussion.
Truth: Your child may not need the emergency room, but watch for severe headaches, vomiting, unequal pupils or other neurological symptoms which may warrant a trip to the ER.  A concussion by itself does not require a CT scan of the head. Those are only ordered if there is concern for an additional injury like a bleed in the brain.

Myth #6: Children can return to sports before school.
Truth: The emphasis should be on return-to-learn before return-to-play.  The student athlete may need school accommodations like preprinted notes or extra time to take tests after a concussion.  Once they are tolerating the school environment and are symptom-free we can discuss their return to sports. 

Myth #7: Concussion treatments are “one size fits all.”
Truth: Because symptoms may vary, Dr. Day recommends seeing a sports medicine specialist or your primary care provider to determine the best treatment plan for your child.  In the past these children were told to just rest until they felt better but newer research suggests some people may benefit from early light activity.  The decision to allow light activity should be made by a medical professional.

To make an appointment with Dr. Day or another sports health physician, call Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, 877.440.TEAM.  Cleveland Clinic offers same-day appointments.