Also known as: traumatic brain injury, TBI, mild traumatic brain injury, mild TBI

What are concussions?

Concussion is the temporary abnormality in the way the brain works (with or without a brief loss of consciousness) that occurs after a traumatic jolting of the brain following a blow, bump or shaking of the head (injury).

Children have head injuries while playing sports, and after falls, car, and bicycle accidents. Concussion is the least damaging form of head injury and most children will recover completely though it can sometimes take many weeks to heal.

What causes concussions?

The brain is a soft organ with some firmer and some softer parts, surrounded by fluid that protects and prevents the brain from moving too much within the hard shell of the bony skull. In the young child (and even in adolescents) the head is relatively larger compared to the rest of the body.

When the head is suddenly hit (or shaken violently) the brain moves or shifts in the skull (some parts moving faster than others) and, can bang against the front or sides of the boneyard skull. This causes brain damage (shearing) as the different brain tissues move, plus bruising of the brain can occur as it collides with the bone of the skull.

Repeat concussions cause cumulative damage to the brain.

What are the symptoms of concussions?

A concussion is diagnosed by the symptoms that occur, usually immediately but can occur hours or even days later.

In older children, these commonly include:

  • nausea
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • slurred speech
  • fatigue

They also exhibit a  variety of other symptoms related to being dazed, "out of it", like difficulty concentrating or thinking.

Symptoms in babies include not moving as much, refusing to eat, being floppy or crying more than usual.

What are concussion care options?

Physical and mental rest until all symptoms have disappeared is the primary treatment for a concussion. This not only involves avoiding physical exertion, but also activities that are mentally taxing or otherwise stressful.

Medication may also be helpful for alleviating particular symptoms.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: September 10, 2021 04:47 PM

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