Concussions are a Fact of Life in Today’s Sports World

What is a concussion? According to experts working with the CDC, a concussion…

  • is a mild traumatic brain injury.
  • is caused by traumatic force from either a direct hit to the head or a blow to the body indirectly affecting the brain.
  • disturbs the metabolic function of the brain rather than causing damage that would be visible on a standard CT Scan or MRI scan.
  • usually does not involve a loss of consciousness.
  • results in a combination of physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep-related symptoms that is somewhat individualized for every person.
  • recovers in a sequential process with symptoms lasting minutes to months, or even longer in some cases.
– CDC Physicians’ Tool Kit; Collins, Gioia, et al., 2006

Symptoms immediately after injury often include:

  • Headache

  • Poor Balance or Coordination

  • Dizziness

  • Lightheadedness

  • Nausea

  • Ringing in the Ears

  • Fatigue

  • Confusion

  • Slowed Thinking

  • Feeling “Out of It”

  • Poor Concentration and Short-term Memory

  • Vision Changes (Blurring, Double Vision, or Momentarily Seeing Colors Or Spots).

Symptoms may take days, weeks, or even longer to clear, sometimes causing student athletes difficulty keeping up in school due to symptoms that may be:

  • PHYSICAL – headache, sensitivity to light or noise, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, double vision, ringing in the ears
  • COGNITIVE – concentration or memory deficits, slowed thinking, mental fogginess, trouble multitasking
  • SLEEP-RELATED – trouble falling or staying asleep, excessive sleeping/fatigue, daytime drowsiness
  • EMOTIONAL – irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, feeling more emotional than usual

Concussions can occur in any sport but most often in “contact” (collision) sports:

  • For female athletes, concussions occur most often in soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball field hockey, and softball.
  • For male athletes, concussions occur most often in football, wrestling, hockey, rugby, and lacrosse
  • High school girls report concussions at an overall rate of twice that of boys in most sports they both play, such as soccer, basketball, and softball/baseball.

Concussions too often go unrecognized…

  • Some players do not report concussions due to lack of knowledge, failure to understand the risks, fear of letting their team down, or determination to play through any challenge or pain.
  • Concussions can be difficult to fully recognize in the heat of a contest.
  • An athlete’s concussion may not be fully healed, and they may not yet be ready to return to contact sports action even when they think their symptoms are gone.
  • Players who return to contact before a concussion is fully healed run the risk of prolonging symptoms or more serious injury.
Zachary Y. Kerr, Avinash Chandran, Aliza K. Nedimyer, Alan Arakkal, Lauren A. Pierpoint and Scott L. Zuckerman. Concussion Incidence and Trends in 20 High School Sports. Pediatrics, November 2019, 144 (5) e20192180; DOI:
Prien, A., Grafe, A., Rössler, R., Junge, A., Verhagen, E. Epidemiology of Head Injuries Focusing on Concussions in Team Contact Sports: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, . 2018 Apr;48(4):953-969. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0854-4.



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” Dr. McGrath and the use of  computerized testing have been invaluable resources for us at St. Mark’s School. He helps to provide the interpretation and understanding of test results so that we may make informed decisions in the recovery and return-to-activity process.”

Carrie Deisenroth, ATC Head Athletic Trainer   |   St. Mark’s School, Southborough, MA