Sports Concussions

Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is a clinical partner in the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center, in the Navy Yard.  Visit this link for more information

What happens to the brain during a concussion?

When such an impact occurs, as from a blow, a jolt, or a fall, the sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist inside the skull, which can lead to chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretch and damage brain cells.


Who can get a concussion?

Concussions can happen to anyone, of any age during any activity that jars the brain.


What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Signs of a concussion to look for after an impact include an inability to remember events before or after the impact, appearing dazed or stunned, slow responses to questions, any loss of consciousness (no matter how brief), and behavior or personality changes.

People with concussions have reported symptoms including headache or a feeling of pressure in the head, nausea, vomiting, difficulty with balance, dizziness, blurred vision, light sensitivity, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and confusion. View a full list of symptoms here.


What are the most common causes of concussion?

  • Sports

  • Falls

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Bicycling


Why are concussions serious?

Concussions can have a long-term effect on cognitive function and visual processing. Concussions can cause functional changes in the brain that persist long after the concussed patient reports recovery from symptoms.

High school-age athletes who continue to play after a concussion can take twice as much time to recover than players who are immediately removed from play. Players not removed are nearly nine times more likely to experience a protracted recovery.


What happens if concussions are not adequately treated?

  • The odds of sustaining a second concussion go up

  • If athletes return to the game before they are healed, they could be increasing the chances of Second-Impact Syndrome, which can be fatal

  • Symptoms may linger causing issues in school, work, home and life

  • Athletes who continue to play with a concussion can take nearly twice as long to recover and experience prolonged effects on memory and reaction time

  • A history of concussion has been linked to depression in teens


Is there any way to prevent a concussion?

There is no way to fully prevent a concussion. But there are steps you can take to help keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Always use child safety seats and seat belts

  • Always wear helmets for activities such as skating, skiing, and bicycle riding

  • Encourage children to play safely and avoid unsafe situations in sports, such as striking another child in the head, helmet-to-helmet collisions (in football, for example), or running into unprotected opponents (football, baseball, soccer, basketball). Enforce the rules of safety and good sportsmanship.

  • Practice using handrails, especially as you get older in age

  • In cold weather, try using gloves instead of keeping hands in pockets, especially when walking in icy or slippery conditions, or when hiking on rocky ground


If you or your child sustains a concussion, be sure to visit a concussion specialist to ensure you have recovered fully, and have a doctor’s clearance to return to activity. In some cases patients may feel they are fully recovered from their concussion, but are in fact still healing. Visiting a specialist is the best way to ensure you do not engage in activities that could put you at risk for re-injury during your recovery.

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