Understanding Concussion

A concussion is a type of brain injury resulting from a bump, blow or jolt to the head — or from a hit to the body that transmits significant force to the head. As the brain moves rapidly back and forth, bounces around, or twists in the skull, the movement can stretch or damage brain cells and cause chemical changes in the brain.

Effects of Concussion on Students

Concussion does not affect everyone the same way. Students who incur a concussion can experience symptoms that last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. With a serious concussion, symptoms can last months or even longer.1

Research also suggests that age plays a role in recovering from concussion.2 Younger students tend to experience more prolonged symptoms than older students. It's also more difficult to detect concussion in younger students because they might not be able to articulate the symptoms they are experiencing, might want to keep playing, or might be unaware that the symptoms are important.3

Concussion Symptoms

Although a concussion might seem to be an “invisible injury,” it can affect a student in many ways.

Common Concussion Symptoms


Balance difficulties
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise


Feeling mentally foggy
Feeling slowed down
Difficulty concentrating
Difficulty remembering
Difficulty focusing


More emotional than usual


Trouble falling asleep
Sleeping more than usual
Sleeping less than usual


How Concussion Affects Learning

Symptoms from a concussion can affect a student’s learning and schoolwork significantly. Physical symptoms might interfere with the student’s ability to focus and concentrate. Cognitive symptoms can affect the student’s ability to learn, memorize and process information, as well as keep track of assignments.

It’s important for schools to have protocols in place for the benefit of their students and staff, with the knowledge that standard concussion treatment involves both physical and cognitive rest.

Sports-Related Concussion

Determining the incidence rate of sports-related concussion has been challenging for several reasons:

  • Changes to the definition of sports-related concussion;
  • Difficulty in establishing appropriate reporting of sports-related concussions to coaches and healthcare professionals;
  • Underreporting of symptoms by athletes who don't want to face restrictions from activity.

What we do know, however, is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012 an estimated 329,290 children age 19 or younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for sports and recreation-related concussions or traumatic brain injuries — a number that has more than doubled since 2001.4

The growth in concussion reporting is attributable to both an increase in sports participation and progression in knowledge of signs and symptoms of the condition.5 Another factor is the growth in awareness of concussions in the media, resulting in greater appreciation of concussion’s severity by the healthcare community.



1McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W., Dvořák, J., et al. (2017). Consensus statement on concussion in sport- the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51: 838-847. Retrieved from bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/11/838.

2Field, M., Collins, M. & Lovell, M. (2003). Does age play a role in recovery from sports-related concussion? A comparison of high school and collegiate athletes. Journal of Pediatrics, 142, 546-553.

3Halstead, M. E. & Walter, K. D. (2010). The Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Clinical report: Sport-related concussion in children and adolescents. Journal of Pediatrics, 126, 597-611.

4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html.

5Register-Mihalik, J. K., Guskiewicz, K. M., Valovich McLeod, T. C., Linnan, L. A., Mueller, F. O. & Marshall, S. W. (2013). Knowledge, attitude, and concussion-reporting behaviors among high school athetes: A preliminary study. Journal of Athletic Training, 48, 645-653.