Know Your Concussion ABCs for Teens

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after an injury or may not appear or be noticed until hours or days after the injury. It is important to watch for changes in how your child or teen is acting or feeling, if symptoms are getting worse, or if he/she just “doesn’t feel right.” Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness. If your child or teen reports one or more of the symptoms of concussion listed below, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away. Children and teens are among those at greatest risk for concussion.

Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion Observed by Parents or Guardians

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about events
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Repeats questions
  • Can’t recall events prior to the hit, bump, or fall
  • Can’t recall events after the hit, bump, or fall
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Forgets class schedule or assignments

Danger Signs

Be alert for symptoms that worsen over time. Your child or teen should be seen in an emergency department right away if he/she  has:

  • One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
  • Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
  • A headache that gets worse and does not go away
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Difficulty recognizing people or places
  • Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
  • Unusual behavior
  • Loss of consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)

What Should I Do If My Child or Teen Has a Concussion?

  1. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion can determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to normal activities, including physical activity and school (concentration and learning activities).
  2. Help them take time to get better. If your child or teen has a concussion, his or her brain needs time to heal. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while he/she is recovering from a concussion. Exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games may cause concussion symptoms (such as headache or tiredness) to reappear or get worse. After a concussion, physical and cognitive activities—such as concentration and learning—should be carefully managed and monitored by a health care professional.
  3. Together with your child or teen, learn more about concussions. Talk about the potential long-term effects of concussion and the dangers of returning too soon to normal activities (especially physical activity and learning/concentration).

For more information about concussion and free resources, visit: MedStar Sports Health Concussion Program.