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Concussion and Young Athletes

Sports Medicine Program

When your child has a concussion or other head injury, it’s important to seek medical attention from experienced providers who know just how to care for growing kids. Phoenix Children’s has your child’s urgent care and sports medicine needs covered.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

What are common signs of a concussion?

Symptoms of concussion may appear soon after a head injury, or hours to days later. These common symptoms can vary in severity:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusual tiredness 
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling confused, dazed or “not right”
  • Responding slowly or difficulty answering questions properly
  • Balance problems
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior
  • Memory loss

Does my child need medical attention for a concussion?

If you’re concerned about a child’s head injury, see a pediatrician for evaluation as soon as possible. They will determine appropriate next steps, such as a visit to an emergency room, an imaging center or a specialist.

How are concussions diagnosed?

A concussion is generally diagnosed using information about the injury. A pediatric provider will review a child’s health history and perform a physical examination. 

Additional tests may include a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess additional skull injuries, such as a fracture, brain bleed or bruise.

How are concussions treated?

After a head injury, a child or athlete should be immediately removed from play and evaluated by an athletic trainer or doctor as soon as possible.

The severity of a concussion determines the best treatment options. Rest and sleep are primary treatments for a concussion. A provider may also recommend that an athlete avoid the following:

  • Using electronics (video games, laptops, cell phones, TV)
  • All sports and physical activities
  • Driving (if 16 years and older)

When can a child return to school after concussion?

Depending on the severity of a concussion, children may need to stay home and rest for several days or weeks. Once cleared by a provider to return to school, athletes may require special accommodations, such as:

  • Limited or no test-taking
  • Extra time to complete assignments and homework
  • Printed notes/assignments to decrease screen time
  • Breaks in the nurse’s office, whenever needed

When can a child return to physical activity after a concussion?

After a concussion, athletes should not return to physical activities, especially contact sports, until they:

  • Have been cleared by a medical professional
  • No longer experience any related symptoms
  • Can attend full days of school without difficulty

How can a child prevent future concussions?

Athletes should always follow sports-related guidelines and wear sport-appropriate protective equipment to decrease the risk of injury. Well-fitted helmets are effective in reducing the risk of traumatic brain injuries.

Where can I find medical care for my child’s concussion or head injury?

Phoenix Children’s offers urgent and non-urgent options for treating concussion and other head injuries.

  • Urgent Care – for injuries after hours and on weekends (seven days a week, 5-11 p.m.) 
  • Sports Medicine – for pediatric-specific sports medicine and physical therapy (every weekday during normal business hours)

Unsure if your child should seek medical attention for a concussion? Call us at 602-933-KIDS (5437).


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