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Injury & Violence Prevention

Traumatic Brain Injury - Concussions and Sports

It is important for sports personnel, health care professionals, parents, athletes, and teachers to know signs and symptoms of concussion and how to respond. Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death. Appropriate care and management of return to academics and sports are critical to the healing process.


What is a concussion? A concussion is the most common type of brain injury sustained in sports. Concussions are caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body that results in rapid movement of the brain inside the skull. The sudden movement of the brain causes injury that disrupts the way the brain functions.

Health care professionals sometimes describe a concussion as a "mild" brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening; however, concussions can cause serious long-term complications and may even result in death. It is important to remember that even a "ding," "getting your bell rung," or what seems to be mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. It is best to refer an athlete to a health care professional if a concussion is suspected.

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What are the signs and symptoms of concussion? You cannot see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion generally show up soon after the injury, but sometimes they may not be noticed for days or months. An athlete does not have to lose consciousness to sustain a concussion.

Signs to look for:

  • Dazed or stunned appearance
  • Clumsy movements
  • Slow responses to questions
  • Difficulty thinking clearly (e.g. confusion about game assignment or position; uncertainty about the game, score or opponent; trouble staying on task on return to school)
  • Difficulty remembering (e.g. can't recall events prior to hit or fall, can't recall events after hit or fall, unable to remember an instruction)
  • Loss of consciousness (even briefly)
  • Mood, behavior or personality changes

Athletes may report:

  • Headache or "pressure" in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy feelings
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Not feeling right or feeling down

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What can we do to reduce the risk of concussion?

  • Enforce no hits to the head or other types of dangerous play.
  • Practice safe playing techniques and encourage athletes to follow the rules of play.
  • Make sure players wear approved and properly-fitted protective equipment during all events including practice. Protective equipment should be well-maintained and be worn consistently and correctly.

When an injury occurs during a practice or in an athletic competition, remember the Concussion ABCs.

  • Assess the situation (How did the injury occur?)
  • Be alert for signs and symptoms of concussion.
  • Contact a health care provider.

If you think that an athlete has a concussion:

  • Don't try to diagnose, assess the severity of the injury, or treat it yourself.
  • Take the athlete out of play.
  • Seek the advice of a health care professional who is trained in concussion identification and management.

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SC Student Athlete Concussions Law

South Carolina has a law that outlines concussion guidelines and management requirements for South Carolina High School League-sanctioned events. Schools, recreation centers and other youth sports sponsors may choose to apply similar principles to other activities. Concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity.

Click here to read the SC Student Athlete Concussions Law