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Concussions in Youth Sports

Concussions in Youth Sports

While many parents are excited to see their children play sports, concussions are a real risk. Duy Tran, DO, pediatric emergency medicine physician with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, says it’s important for parents to know the signs and symptoms of concussion in their child.

“Kids are typically at a higher risk of concussion for a couple reasons. Kids tend to be a lot more active, they also tend to have more immature brains and can have a hard time explaining how they feel, which can delay identifying when a concussion actually happens,” says Dr. Tran.

Identifying signs of concussion in children

According to Dr. Tran, a concussion is any type of brain injury that disrupts brain function. They generally occur with any sudden or repeated impact to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth. 

Boy’s tackle football leads the way in causes of concussion; however, concussions also are prevalent in boy’s and girl’s lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and basketball.

Some signs and symptoms of concussion for parents and coaches to be aware of include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Bothered by lights or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems
  • Just not “feeling right” or “feeling down”

Dr. Tran says any potential concussion should be evaluated by a trained medical professional.

The role of rehab

In the past, concussions were treated through rest and evaluation. But Colin Ellis, DPT, a neurologic physical therapist with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), says a different approach is now used. “A growing body of evidence suggests that a calculated and professionally monitored return to their sport and everyday activities following a concussion can facilitate better outcomes,” he says. 

Ellis says there are six stages in the protocol used to return students to their sport, which begins 24-48 hours after the injury. Each stage is generally 24 hours but may need to be repeated if symptoms return or worsen. Stages include:

  1. Symptom-limited activity
  2. Light aerobic activity
  3. Sport specific exercise
  4. Non-contact training drills
  5. Full-contact practice
  6. Return to play

Preventing concussions

Concussions can have long-lasting effects on kids, including increased risk of anxiety and depression, memory issues and even early onset dementia. Fortunately, Dr. Tran says there are ways parents and coaches can help prevent concussions in kids.

  • Make sure helmets fit properly
  • Limit tackle football to older ages
  • Ban body checking in ice hockey
  • Ban heading balls in soccer until they are older

“If you notice that your child or athlete suffers a head injury, don’t hesitate to say ‘Can you please remove my child from the field?’ so that you can assess your child,” says Dr. Tran.



A concussion is a complex pathological process that affects the brain after a blow to the head or body.

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