Conditions + Treatments

Concussions in Children

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If you’re a fan of any professional sport, you've probably heard about someone suffering a concussion and having to sit out the next play, the rest of the game or even the remainder of the season. But did you know that concussions happen to plenty of non-athletes, too … and that they affect millions of children every year in the United States alone?

Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that result from the brain going into a spinning motion. This is most often because of a direct blow to the head, but can also be caused by a blow to the body that snaps the head forward or backward.

Sometimes, a concussion causes an immediate loss of consciousness, but a child can also appear fine at first and then have symptoms develop later.  Symptoms of a concussion usually include:

  • headaches
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia) or excessive sleepiness
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty remembering things
  • problems with balance and coordination

These symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks after the injury. All concussions cause some disruption to the brain, and call for an exam by your child’s regular doctor as well as careful monitoring.

The good news is that most concussions don’t cause any lasting effects, and most children make a complete recovery with physical and mental rest. Even when concussions lead to complications, advances in concussion diagnostics and treatment make the majority of cases very treatable.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches concussions

Boston Children’s has a long and distinguished history of caring for children with complex diseases and disorders of the brain, spine and central nervous system. Clinicians in our Department of Neurology and Department of Neurosurgery are regarded as international leaders in treating conditions that range from rare syndromes to relatively common injuries like concussions.

In addition, Boston Children’s Division of Sports Medicine is at the forefront of advocating for greater understanding of – and better treatments for – concussions and other head injuries sustained during athletics. Student-athletes are playing at higher levels of competition (and facing more pressure to return to play) than ever before. Recognizing that student-athletes of all ages are at elevated risk for concussions, the Division has established a Sports Concussion Clinic that:

  • uses a team approach to treat each child, involving specialists in sports medicine, neuropsychology, neurology, and neuroradiology
  • works with school districts across the Boston area to:
  • provide screenings
  • raise awareness of concussion symptoms and risk factors among coaches, athletic trainers, parents and the athletes themselves

Here in the Sports Concussion Clinic, we use a computerized test called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) to obtain baseline evaluations of neurocognitive functioning (thinking, memory, concentration and information-processing abilities) in children who have sustained a concussion.

Through our state-of-the-art assessment tools, relationships with schools and coaches and multidisciplinary team approach, Boston Children’s Hospital  provides an essential medical perspective and outlines measurable steps for athletes, coaches and families. 

Tackling concussions head on

Watch Children's live webcast on pediatric concussions.

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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