Providing Special Opportunities

Organized sports provide our children with special opportunities for character building and physical development. Particularly in the contact sports, these opportunities come with risks. While we want our children to be able to play hard, learn to push ahead through adversity and be successful, we first want them to be safe. Each season in football, soccer, hockey, wrestling, lacrosse and rugby up to about 10% of a team’s players might suffer concussions. These injuries are also common and just as serious in basketball, baseball, diving, other sports, and in general play activities.

What questions do parents most often ask us
about sports concussions?

What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Concussions are usually caused by direct impact to the head but can also occur from a blow to the body that sends whiplash forces to the brain.

Does a concussion have to involve loss of consciousness?
No. Most concussions do not. In fact, athletes will often continue playing in spite of these injuries, sometimes making concussions difficult to detect at first.

How do I know if my child has had a concussion?
Any athlete who has had a concussion will have had a blow to the head or body and will show some of the following symptoms:


  • Headache, dizziness, nausea
  • Visual changes such as double or blurry vision, flashing lights, unusual colors
  • Balance problems
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, sleep difficulties
  • Trouble tolerating light or noise


  • Confusion, disorientation or feeling mentally “foggy
  • Feeling “slowed down” in thinking
  • Trouble focusing and concentrating
  • Forgetfulness or poor short-term memory
  • Word-finding problems


  • Irritability

  • Unusual moodiness

  • Sadness

  • Nervousness or anxiety

  • Depression

Some of these symptoms will appear immediately after the blow. Some may quickly disappear while other symptoms can increase or develop in the hours or days after the injury.

What should I do if my son or daughter has had a concussion?
Obtain medical consultation. Athletes who have been unconscious, even briefly, should be taken to a hospital or doctor’s office for evaluation to rule out unlikely conditions such as bleeding in the brain or fractures. For concussions not involving loss of consciousness, families will usually call their child’s primary care doctor right away to report symptoms and status. Your doctor will then advise you as to whether your child should be seen in a hospital Emergency Department, at the doctor’s office, or monitored at home.

REST is helpful in the first few days and will allow symptoms to begin clearing.

Make sure your child receives proper evaluation by a clinician who understands current thinking and practices in sports concussion management.

How long will symptoms last?
In mildest cases, symptoms last only minutes to hours. For athletes who have taken a more severe blow or who have had multiple or other recent concussions, symptoms may last for weeks or even months.

Will my son or daughter recover completely from a concussion?
Most athletes who have had concussions recover fully and can safely go back to their regular sports activity IF the injury is identified right away and properly managed, and if they receive any needed treatment.. Athletes who have had too many concussions or who return to play too soon may be at risk for slower and more difficult recoveries.

What are the risks of returning to play too soon after a concussion?
The most common risk is causing symptoms that might otherwise clear up more quickly being prolonged for weeks or months, possibly leading to physical discomfort (such as headaches, fatigue, and light sensitivity), stress, and difficulty keeping up in school.

When is it safe for my son or daughter to return to sports action after a concussion?
Experts agree that no athlete should be back playing a contact sport until all concussion symptoms have fully cleared. State laws also require clearance by a medical professional (in Massachusetts, a physician, neuropsychologist, athletic trainer, or nurse practitioner – with continuing education in concussion management).

Can a concussion affect my child’s school performance?
Yes. Many of the symptoms listed above can make it difficult for your child to do as well as usual in school. This may be a problem only for a few days in milder cases. In more severe concussions trouble with headaches, concentration, fatigue, etc. may persist for weeks or months and cause trouble with focusing and remembering in class, homework, and exams. Students with extended symptoms will benefit from office consultation, which allows a closer look at their academic difficulties and specific school accommodations that can help during their recovery.

Some student athletes say or think they are fully recovered when they are still symptomatic. This usually happens because they don’t want to miss playing time or let their team and coach down or perhaps because they don’t understand the risks of returning to action too soon.

Office consultation allows a closer look at your child’s recovery and can facilitate a safer return to their sport.

What is the value of neuropsychological testing for concussions?
Cognitive abilities are one of the major areas affected by concussion. It is important to have confidence that an athlete’s thinking abilities are back to normal before returning to a contact sport. Many athletic departments, including those in all of our partner schools, use baseline and post-injury neurocognitive testing such as ImPACT© to screen for changes in memory, attention and speed of thinking that are typically affected by a concussion. When cognitive limitations are more severe or longer lasting, individualized neuropsychological testing can be used during an office visit to better understand an athlete’s status in recovery.

To Contact Us

To refer your student athlete for office consultation or to arrange for a baseline test, contact our office manager Debbie Petrie at or 617-959-1010. Our office fax is 617-734-0734.

For more information on TeleHealth School Consultation, click here.



Mon – Fri
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Evenings By Appointment
Saturdays By  Appointment

“Dr. McGrath has been a godsend in my daughter’s recovery. His expertise in treating athletes with head injuries is second to none. She was treated by several doctors before seeing Dr. McGrath. His care and his caring for her made the biggest single difference in her recovery.”

Cynthia Schulz, Parent of a student athlete (women’s basketball) , Niagara University, Niagara Falls, NY

“Dr. McGrath, I wish to tell you how nice it was to meet you and thank you so much for everything. It was so helpful and reassuring to truly understand what is going on with our son now and how to best manage this… You have a wonderful way with adolescents and this truly made a difference for our son and ultimately for my husband and myself as well.”

Marianne Hennigan, Hopkinton, MA

“We were very grateful to have the support of Dr. McGrath during Sam’s recovery. His calm, knowledgeable and unhurried approach was very reassuring. His experience with concussion recovery was also incredibly helpful and allowed us to understand what our son’s recovery was going to be like. ”

Nancy Friedman, Parent