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Concussion and Sports

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Concussion and Sports - Summer
Girls playing soccer.
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What is a concussion?

  • A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to either the head or the body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. A concussion changes how the brain normally functions.
  • Concussions can have serious and long-term health effects, and even a seemingly mild 'ding' or a bump on the head can be serious.
  • Signs and symptoms of concussion include headache, nausea, fatigue, confusion or memory problems, sleep disturbances, or mood changes; symptoms are typically noticed right after the injury, but some might not be recognized until days or weeks later.

How many sports concussions occur each year?

  • An estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year.1
  • During 2001-2005, children and youth ages 5-18 years accounted for 2.4 million sports-related emergency department (ED) visits annually, of which 6% (135,000) involved a concussion.2

In what sports are concussions most often reported?

  • Among high school athletes, concussions are most often caused by contact with an opponent, a team mate, the ground, or a piece of equipment or object in the playing area.3
  • In organized high school sports, concussions occur more often in competitive sports, with football accounting for more than 60% of concussions.4
  • For males, the leading cause of high school sports concussion is football; for females the leading cause of high school sports concussion is soccer.4
  • Among children and youth ages 5-18 years, the five leading sports or recreational activities which account for concussions include: bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities, and soccer.2

What is known about sports concussion risk and recovery?

  • High school athletes' recovery times for a sports concussion are longer than college athletes' recovery times.5
  • High school athletes who sustain a concussion are three times more likely to sustain a second concussion.3
  • Lack of proper diagnosis and management of concussion may result in serious long-term consequences, or risk of coma or death.6,7

How can sports concussions be prevented?

Make sure that while participating in sports or recreational activities you or your children:

  • Use the right protective equipment for the sport or activity, and be sure that it is properly fitted and maintained and worn correctly and consistently.
  • Follow safety rules and those for the sport.
  • Practice good sportsmanship at all times.

What should you do if you think you or your child has had a concussion?

  • Seek medical attention right away.
    – A health care professional will be able to decide when it is safe to return to sports.
  • Do not return to play with a known or suspected concussion until evaluated and given permission by an appropriate health care professional.
    Second concussions that occur before you have recovered can be very serious.
  • Tell your coach or child’s coach about any recent concussions.


1. Langlois JA, Rutland-Brown W, Wald MM. The epidemiology and impact of traumatic brain injury: a brief overview. J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2006;21:375-78.

2. Department of Health and Human Services (US), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Non-fatal sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency departments – United States, 2001-2005. MMWR. 2007;56(29);733-37.

3. Guskiewicz KM, Weaver NL, Padua DA, Garrett WE. Epidemiology of concussion in collegiate and high school football players. Am J Sports Med. 2000;28(5);643-50.

4. Powell JW, Barber-Foss KD. Traumatic brain injury in high school athletes. JAMA. 1999;282(10);958-63.

5. Field M, Collins MW, Lovell MR, Maroon J. Does age play a role in recovery from sports-related concussion? A comparison of high school and collegiate athletes. J Pediatrics. 2003;142(5);546-53.

6. Department of Health and Human Services (US), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sports-related recurrent brain injuries – United States. MMWR. 1997;46(10):224-27.

7. Buzzini SRR, Guskiewicz KM. Sport-related concussion in the young athlete. Curr Opin Pediatrics. 2006;18:376-82.


It is better to miss one game than the whole season.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov.


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