What is concussion?

Concussion is a type of brain injury, induced by a force to the head or anywhere on the body which transmits a force to the head. It commonly causes short lived neurologic impairment and the symptoms may evolve over the hours or days following the injury. When managed appropriately, most cases of concussion in sport recover uneventfully within 10-14 days of injury.

Why is it important to recognise concussion?

Recognising concussion is critical to correctly managing the injury and preventing further injury. Concussion can sometimes be difficult to recognise as the signs and symptoms vary, may be subtle and evolve over time.

You should suspect a concussion when the injury results in a knock to the head or body that transmits a force to the head.

What should parents, coaches and support staff do on the sideline?

It is  important to recognise the signs and symptoms of concussion in order to identify a suspected concussion injury. This is particularly important at the community sport level where there may not be medical staff present.

Parents, coaches and support staff can all learn to recognise a suspected concussion injury. Parents may see an injury incident that the coach or first aid officer did not witness and therefore provide important information.

Are there resources available to help recognise a concussion?

There are many resources available that allow easy recognition of a suspected concussion including the downloadable documents on this website;

  • Pocket Concussion Recognition Tool
  • Immediate Management of Concussion

What are the most common signs and symptoms?

The Pocket Concussion Recognition Tool outlines a number of signs and symptoms to help identify concussion in children, youth and adults.

Visible signs

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Clutching or grabbing the head
  • Lying motionless or slow to get up
  • Unsteady on feet
  • Dazed or blank look
  • Confusion

Symptoms (what the player reports)

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Can’t concentrate
  • Sad/emotional
  • Irritable
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling “in a fog or not quite right”

If I suspect concussion injury, what should I do?

If a player has one or more of the signs and symptoms of concussion, then they should be immediately removed from the game and not allowed to return to sport that day. The player should be monitored closely on the sidelines and arrangements made for the player to be referred to a medical practitioner for assessment as soon as possible.

Should children be managed differently?

Children and adolescents under the age of 18 may be more susceptible to concussion and take longer to recover. It is therefore important to take more conservative approach to their management including:

  • Longer symptom free rest period
  • Return to learn should take priority over return to sport
  • May need a modified school program
  • Graduated Return to Sport Program extended to 14 days

For more information please download the PDF document – Management of Children

Will wearing a helmet prevent concussion?

At present there is no clear scientific evidence that helmets prevent concussion. There is some evidence that young players that wear a helmet may change their playing style and receive more head impact as a result. Accordingly, helmets are not recommended for the prevention of concussion.

In specific sports such as cycling, motor and equestrian sports, protective helmets may prevent other forms of head injury (e.g. face or skull fracture) and are related to falling on hard surfaces. Helmets are therefore an important injury prevention device for those sports.

Will wearing a mouthguard prevent concussion?

  • There is no scientific evidence that mouthguards prevent concussion or other brain injuries.
  • Mouthguards have a definite role in preventing injuries to the teeth and face and for that reason are strongly recommended for all contact sports.

Do you have to lose consciousness to be concussed?

No. Most cases of concussion (80-90%) do not involve loss consciousness i.e. loss of consciousness only occurs in 10-20% of cases.

What sports have the highest rates of concussion for children?

Concussion is a relatively common injury in all collision sports.

Sports with the highest concussion rates are;

  • For Boys – AFL, rugby league, rugby union, soccer, cycling, trampoline.
  • For Girls – soccer, netball, equestrian, trampoline

What is CTE?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found predominately in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma including concussion. At present no definitive cause and effect can be identified between repetitive head trauma and long term brain damage. Research is ongoing.

Does my child need to give up sports if s/he has suffered a concussion?

Athletes should not return to sports while still having symptoms from a concussion because they are at risk of prolonging symptoms and further injury. It is very rare that any child is told to give up playing sports after a single injury. However, if the recovery is quite prolonged (greater than 6 months), you should consult a concussion specialist to further discuss the possible risks of return to playing sports. An evaluation with a concussion specialist should be considered in any child who has had more than one sports-related concussion.

What exactly does “rest” mean? Can my child watch television, play video games, text, etc.?

Mental rest means avoiding activities that require the brain to work hard to process information. This includes critical thinking and problem solving activities such as schoolwork, homework, and technology use.

Restrictions from the following should be considered, because these activities increase brain function and can therefore worsen symptoms and delay recovery:

  • Computer work/Internet use
  • Video games
  • Television
  • Text messaging/cell phone use
  • Bright lights, such as strobe lights at school dances
  • Listening to loud music or music through headphones
  • Loud noises
  • Parties, concerts
  • Driving
  • Work