Concussion: when in doubt, sit it out!

02 May 2022

In older children, most concussions occur during sport. With the return to winter sports, Sue Wicks, Head of the Kids Health Promotion Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, outlines what to do when your child has a concussion.

Key facts

  •  1 in 10 children with a concussion will lose consciousness (be knocked out)
  •  60% rise in sport-related concussion rates in children and young people over the past decade
  •  15+ kids with unrecognised or untreated concussion for every child with concussion seen at the hospital

A concussion is a brain injury caused by sudden strong movement of the brain against the skull, which a child can experience when they collide with another person or object.

A child does not need to be knocked out (lose consciousness) to have concussion. So, whenever your child receives a bump or blow to the head or body that causes jarring of the head or neck, you should get them to stop playing immediately and monitor for signs and symptoms.

Signs to look out for

  • Appearing dazed or stunned
  • Repeating questions
  • Problems remembering before or after the injury
  • Confused about events
  • Showing personal or behaviour changes
  • Vomiting

Symptoms to ask about

Ask your child about how they are feeling after the bump. In particular, ask if they are experiencing:

  • Headache or ‘pressure’ in the head
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling tired or slowed down
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Visual problems (e.g. double or blurred vision)
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • That something just doesn’t feel right
  • More emotional
  • Trouble thinking clearly, concentrating, or remembering


When to take your child to the doctor or ED

If your child has any of these signs or symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately. Record the details so you can tell the doctor what the child is experiencing. Note down when the signs or symptoms occurred, how long they lasted, and how severe they were. It’s recommended to record this at 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 2 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours. If the signs or symptoms get worse (or if you’re uncertain), take your child to the hospital immediately.

Returning to school and sport

Rest is the most important treatment for a head injury. Children should not exercise, use computer screens, play video games or study for at least 24 – 48 hours after experiencing a concussion.  A gradual and staged return to school and sports should be planned with your doctor.

Useful resources

Visit Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network’s Kids Health Promotion Unit

Concussion management on field tool KIH2532 CONC Wallet card_A4 design_v6 (

Concussion info sheet KIH2529 CONC infographics A2 poster_FA_v2 (

Important to know

  • A concussion can occur even without loss of consciousness
  • For any bump to the head or body that jars the head or neck, stop play immediately. If your child has any signs or symptoms, observe for a further 5 minutes.

o   No further signs or symptoms, see a doctor

o   Still experiencing signs or symptoms, call 000 and ask for an ambulance

  • Signs and symptoms may not show up until 24-48 hours later.
  • Take your child to Emergency if they develop HEAD BUMPS

H           worsening Headache, seizure, unconscious 

E           worsening Eye problems (blurred or double vision) 

A           Abnormal behaviour changes 

D           Dizziness, persistent vomiting 

B           Balance dysfunction with weakness or numbness in legs or arms 

U           Unsteady on feet, slurred speech 

M          Memory impaired, confused, disoriented 

P           Poor concentration, drowsy, sleepy 

S           Something’s not right (concerned about a child) 


If your child becomes unconscious or has a seizure, follow DRS ABCD to start CPR or manage the seizure and call 000.

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