Recognizing Concussions on the Field and Immediate Steps to Take | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Concussion Care for Kids: Minds Matter

Recognizing Concussions on the Field and Immediate Steps to Take

Concussions affect multiple aspects of brain function, including the way people think, how they process information, how they feel (emotions), and their sleep habits.

Signs to look for include: inability to process information correctly, emotional instability and physical deficits, such as impaired balance or eye tracking.

Signs of concussions in sports

Athletes who experience a concussion on the field or court may:

Signs of a concussion may include one or more of those listed above.


Symptoms of concussions in sports

Symptoms that players may report to their coach include one or more of the following:

Please note that these deficits are relative to an individual’s specific baseline abilities. This is where a coach's knowledge of the athlete is invaluable. When one of your players is not acting or playing like himself or herself, you should always consider the possibility of a concussion.

If a player exhibits any signs of a concussion or has symptoms that raise suspicion of a concussion, your responsibility as a coach and a trusted adult is simple — immediately remove the player from the game or practice. Always have a low threshold for suspicion of a concussion: “When in doubt, sit them out!”


"Heads Up” 4-step Action Plan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the “Heads Up” 4-step Action Plan for players suspected of having a concussion:

  1. Remove the participant from play and keep him or her out the remainder of the day.
  2. Ensure that the participant is evaluated by an appropriate healthcare professional.
  3. Inform the participant’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion and give them information about concussions. Make sure they know that the athlete should be seen by a healthcare professional experienced in evaluating concussions.
  4. Keep the participant out of play until an appropriate healthcare professional says the participant is symptom-free and gives the OK to return to play.


Know when to call 911

There may be times when a more serious injury occurs and emergency medical services should be activated. Although these situations are rare, it is important to recognize them and know what do to.

Call 911 in these emergent medical circumstances:

  • Any time a player has a loss of consciousness for any duration. While loss of consciousness is not required for a concussion to occur, it may indicate more serious brain injury.
  • If a player exhibits any of the following:
    • Decreased level of consciousness
    • Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
    • Irregular breathing
    • Severe or worsening headaches
    • Persistent vomiting
    • Seizures

If a player with a suspected concussion is not sent for immediate medical attention, he or she should be observed continuously until evaluated by a healthcare professional. Never send a player with a suspected concussion to the bus or to the locker room alone. Any worsening in symptoms or signs may indicate a medical emergency.


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If you suspect a concussion

Contact your child’s primary care doctor for evaluation.

Find a CHOP Primary Care physician near you »

If symptoms persist, you can schedule an appointment with
a concussion specialist:

Sports Medicine and Performance Center

Pediatric Trauma Center