Concussion guide for parents

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Youth football practices across the country are underway. For players, the start of a new season brings about hope for a winning record, but for parents, it can renew concerns about concussions. Dr. Rick Figler, who treats concussion at Cleveland Clinic, says  a traumatic brain injury does not always occur from a helmet-to-helmet hit.

"Any kind of hit or blow to the head is going to cause it. Actually, any injury or severe blow to the body that makes the head whiplash back and forth can cause a concussive injury as well, but it doesn't have to be helmet to helmet," he explained.

Figler says an incidental elbow or shoulder pad to the helmet can cause a concussion. He says many times it happens when a player falls backwards and hits their head on the ground.

To keep your kids safe this football season, Figler recommends educating yourself about the subtle signs of concussion.

"If the kid comes off and they're not acting right or the kid comes home and they're nauseous. Did they get hit in the stomach? No. Well, there's a potential there where they can have a concussion. So, the key, by all means, is to make sure that parents are educated about those subtle signs," he said.

Fatigue is also a sign of a concussion. So, Figler says if your son or daughter comes home from a game or practice and wants to go straight to bed, ask them if they hit their head.

The most common symptom of a concussion is a headache. This is an especially serious symptom if the headache gets worse over time, which might mean that there is bleeding in the skull.

Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • balance problems/dizziness
  • double or blurry vision
  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • fatigue or drowsiness
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • trouble comprehending and/or concentrating
  • depression
  • irritability, nervousness, or sadness
  • feelings of being "just not right" or in a "fog"

Other danger signs are:

  • seizures
  • not knowing people or places
  • unusual behavior

In children, the signs to seek emergency treatment include:

  • any of the adult symptoms listed above
  • will not stop crying or calm down
  • will not nurse or eat

For more information on concussions, including treatment and signs you should take your child to the emergency room, go to

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