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Identifying Concussion Signs in Children and Teens


Parents, coaches and teachers frequently overlook concussions by characterizing physical impact as a minor ‘bonk on the head’.  For example:  When a child or teen takes a hit while playing sports, they are usually assessed quickly at the sidelines.  But soon after, the victim is put right back into the game and sent to school the next day.  These practices ignore the dangers of leaving a concussion untreated and overworking an injured brain.  The signs and symptoms of a concussion may not appear for up to 48 hours, which explains why victims and their caregivers often make this mistake.

Young people experience concussions very differently from adults.  This makes the injury even more difficult to identify immediately after impact.

What is a concussion?
According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, a concussion occurs when the brain is rapidly shaken up in the skull.  This usually happens after a direct hit in the head, or a blow to the body, that causes a sudden jerk of the head or neck.  Although concussions mainly occur during contact sports, it can happen during seemingly innocent play at recess, for example.  An untreated concussion can lead to long-term health risks if not dealt with promptly and properly.


Concussions in Children vs. Adults
Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Todd Maugans led a study, published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics.  This study identified the major differences in concussive symptoms between children and adults.  It found:

  • Symptoms in young people last longer;
  • Children also exhibit emotional symptoms (i.e. irritability and sadness); and
  • Recovery from those symptoms takes longer than adults.

Some examples of red flag symptoms in children include:

  • Repeated vomiting;
  • Deteriorating or loss of consciousness; and
  • Complaints of neck pain, double vision, and/or headache.

Educating the Public
The BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit has published a new web-based tool for parents and coaches.  It is known as: CATT – Concussion Awareness Training Tool.  The initiative works with experts in sports medicine to publish current, evidence-based research on concussions.  The team helps a variety of groups identify concussion signs, and understand appropriate treatments specifically geared towards young people.  The groups benefitting from this information include medical professionals, players, coaches and parents.

The CATT promotes concussion management in the healthcare community through an additional resource known as the ‘Concussion Clinical Toolkit’. Healthcare providers and other professionals can access expert discussions on the assessment/management of concussion in young patients.  Its database sets out specific guidelines for treatment and diagnosis.

The CATT website also provides a variety of other resources.  They range from educational videos to helpful checklists that will help you identify concussive symptoms.  There are also insightful stories from young people describing their journey to recovery. A series of professional athletes have also contributed to the CATT.

It is important to stay educated on the ways in which young people experience concussions. Reviewing the CATT is one of the best ways to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.  No matter how careful or athletic a child may be, no one is immune to a concussion — just look at Sidney Crosby.


The above article is for general purposes only.  Should you have a question about your legal rights and remedies, please contact:

Richard Bogoroch

Bogoroch & Associates LLP

150 King St W #1901

Toronto, Ontario

M5H 1J9

Phone:  416-599-1700



Resources Used:

Sheryl Ubelacker, “New website launched to help recognize concussion signs in kids” July 29, 2014, Global News (online).

Todd A. Maugans et al, Pediatrics “Pediatric sports-related concussion produces cerebral blood flow alterations”, Pediatrics 2012 January, 129(1): 28-37.

Concussion Awareness Training Tool, Website, 2014, available at:

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