The Truth About Concussions

There has been a lot of talk lately about concussions, especially in the NFL. With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I think it’s a good time to address this issue with parents as they consider the potential risks that their children face playing sports.

Youth sports concussions are very common, but they do untold permanent damages to your child’s brain. Here’s what you need to know as a parent.

What is a concussion?

We hear about them a lot, but it can be hard to understand exactly what is happening in a Concussions 01person’s brain during a concussion. The CDC defines a concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.”

The concussion is not just caused by impact to the head, but actually the brain being moved inside the skull and impacting with the hard skull bone. This is why helmets alone do not prevent concussions.

How do concussions affect health?

Generally, the concussion causes some short term effects that must be taken seriously when noticed. The concussed person may not be aware what’s going on with them.

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Coma
  • Seizures

In the long term, repeated concussions can have serious effects.

  • Memory problems
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Intense anger and/or aggression
  • Personality changes
  • Inattention and lack of concentration
  • Problems organizing, planning, and problem solving
  • Language impairment

Click here to learn more about long-term concussion affects

Multiple concussions greatly increase one’s chance of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life, and may make them appear sooner. Repeated concussions can cause what is known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has all of the symptoms listed above. This disease has been found in the brains of nearly every former NFL player whose brain was examined post-mortem.

Click here for more info on CTE

 What risks do my kids face?

 Youth sports can do immeasurable good for the lives on children. The love for physical activity, healthy competition, and teamwork are values that will help kids for the rest of their lives.

For this reason, many parents believe the risks of concussion and other injuries are risks worth taking for the ultimate benefit of their children. Ultimately, this decision will be up to you. There is no right or wrong answer.

However, the more information you can access, the better you’ll be able to make the decision for yourself and your children.

Concussions 02The CDC has recently started a great information campaign to help parents and coaches understand concussions. The program is called Heads Up!

Check it out here

Here are some valuable statistics about youth sports concussions:


Sports Concussion Statistics:

  • 3,800,000 concussions reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002
  • 33% of all sports concussions happen at practice
  • 39% — the amount by which cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability
  • 47% of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football
  • 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season
  • 33% of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year
  • 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes
  • 90% of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness
  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans live with a traumatic brain injury-related disability (CDC)

With all of this knowledge in mind, are there certain sports that are more likely to result in concussion? I’m sure you can guess which sports have the highest rates of concussion. Below is a table of the concussion rates among different youth sports:

Concussions 03


My aim with this blog post is not to alarm or advocate making any decisions for your or your family. I only hope to present parents with as much evidence and information as possible to help make informed decisions for their families.

If you have any questions or comments about concussions and youth sports, I’d love to carry on the conversation. Keep in touch!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy February,

Dr. Johnson