What you need to know about kids and concussions

Sometimes thought of as a 'mild' traumatic brain injury, concussions can have serious consequences for young, developing brains.

Concussions are the most common type of traumatic brain injury. They are caused by a blow to the head or hit to the body that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Any injury to the brain can have serious consequences; this is especially true for children whose brains are still developing.

According to the Injury Prevention Centre, between 2011 and 2014, there were an average of 3,881 injury-related emergency department visits each year that resulted in kids 0-14 years old being diagnosed with a concussion.

Assessing a concussion and then managing it properly can reduce the risk of brain damage and long-term issues. Because some people may not show obvious signs of a concussion, such as losing consciousness, it's important to be aware of the symptoms.

Symptoms of a concussion fall into four categories: physical, mental, emotional and behavioural, and sleep related.

Symptoms of concussion:


  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light and noise


  • Fogginess and difficulty thinking
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty remembering


  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep

Emotional and behavioural

  • Irritability or frustration
  • Nervous/anxious
  • Sadness
  • anger

In children, you may also see a loss of new skills, such as toilet training, a lack of interest in favourite toys or activities and increased crying and temper tantrums.

If someone shows signs of have a concussion they should see a doctor right away. If "red flag" symptoms are present, call 911 immediately. These include loss of consciousness, weakness or tingling in arms/legs, double vision, vomiting, seizure, neck pain and headache.

Rest is the most important treatment for a concussion-both physical and mental. This means avoiding sports and exercise, while cognitive rest includes limiting activities like school, reading, texting, watching TV, computer work and video games. Kids can return to these activities on the advice of a doctor.

Want to learn more?

To better recognize, treat and manage concussions in kids, visit the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) that provides free online concussion education for parents and caregivers, school professionals, coaches and medical professionals.

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