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Here we are at the start of the fall sport season and with it comes the start of football. The hottest topic in football...

Here we are at the start of the fall sport season and with it comes the start of football. The hottest topic in football these days is concussions. Whether it is in the NFL or at the high school level or down to Pop Warner, concussions are being discussed. In reality, studies have shown that most people don’t really know what a concussion is.

On average, athletic trainers report 5-6 percent of athletes suffer a concussion each year. However, when athletes were educated on what a concussion is defined as, about 45 percent of them admit to having one in the past year. Why the discrepancy? Because when athletes don’t know what constitutes a concussion, they are unable to explain what they are feeling.

So what is the definition of a concussion? A concussion first and foremost is a brain injury. It is caused by a blow to the head OR body that results in the brain moving rapidly inside the skull and hitting the inside wall of the skull. Picture throwing Jell-o at the wall, the brain is the Jell-o and the skull is the wall, not a pretty picture. It can result from a “ding”, “getting your bell rung” or even a milder bump to the head.

Important points to remember are:

• A concussion is a BRAIN INJURY

 All concussions are SERIOUS

 Concussions can occur WITHOUT loss of consciousness

 Concussions can occur IN ANY SPORT

What to look for in young athletes who you believe may have suffered a concussion:

 Appear dazed or confused

 Confused about assignment or position

 Forgets an instruction

 Is unsure of game, score or opponent

 Moves clumsily

 Answers questions slowly

 Loses consciousness at all

 Shows behavior or personality changes

 Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall

 Can’t recall events after hit or fall

It is important to remember that evidence shows no young athlete recovers the same day as a blow to the head. If there is any doubt regarding a concussion, there is no doubt. Seek immediate medical attention from a professional trained in concussion management.

Information provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For free materials visit  

Tom Clennell is a physical therapist for the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes, a division of Children’s Hospital Oakland, with a facility also located in Walnut Creek. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes staff at

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