After taking a forceful blow, athletes experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms should be removed from play and examined by a health-care professional trained in concussion evaluation.
The rule of thumb? When in doubt, sit players out.
• Dazed or stunned appearance.
• Confusion about the game, player’s position, score, or opponent.
• Inability to remember instructions.
• Vacant stare or glassy eyes.
• Clumsy movements.
• Answering questions slowly.
• Loss of consciousness, even brief.
• Mood, behavior, or personality changes.
• Inability to recall events before or after the blow.
• Any seizure.
• Headache or pressure in head.
• Nausea or vomiting.
• Balance problems or dizziness.
• Ringing in ears.
• Double or blurry vision; seeing stars or flashing lights.
• Sensitivity to light or noise.
• Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
• Problems with concentration, thinking, or memory.
• Depression, sadness, irritability, or anxiety.
• Change in sleep pattern or trouble falling asleep.
After a concussion, athletes need physical and mental rest—no television, video games, music, reading, computer use, school attendance, or homework. Sleep is essential.
A return to regular activities should take place slowly after all signs and symptoms have resolved, under the supervision of a neurologist or other medical professional. Current medical guidelines call for a graduated series of monitored steps, in the following order, with each successive step allowed only if no concussion signs or symptoms manifest themselves:
1. Total rest.
2. Return to school half days.
3. Full return to school.
4. Light exercise (walking, stationary cycling).
5. Non-contact-sport activities and training (running, throwing).
6. Drills without body contact; light weight training.
7. Drills with body contact; heavy weight training.
8. Game play.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, TheConcussionBlog.com.