Concussion is an evolving field. Experts continue to research, evaluate and discuss current practices and make recommendations for changes that will result in better outcomes for individuals who sustain concussions. The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey provides the most up-to-date information on this site and through free resources, webinars, and trainings for schools and communities about concussion.

What is concussion?

The most recent definition of concussion was developed at the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, Zurich, November 2012:  “Concussion is a brain injury and is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces.”

The definition continues to list the four common features that “may be utilized in defining the nature of a concussive head injury” as follows:
  • A concussion may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body. The force from a hit somewhere else on the body can travel up to the head.
  • Concussion typically results in the rapid onset of of symptoms that are temporary, usually resolving with rest over a period of 7 to 10 days.In some cases, symptoms and signs may not show up for a few minutes to hours.
  • Concussion may result in changes in the brain on a cellular level that will not show on a CAT or MRI scan. The symptoms of a concussion are the demonstration of these changes and are observed as behavioral or functional changes.
  • Concussion results in a graded set of clinical symptoms meaning that the symptoms are monitored and measured over the time of recovery. Usually recovery follows a sequential course. However, it is important to note that in some cases symptoms may last for weeks or months.

Note: An individual may be diagnosed with a concussion even if there has been no loss of consciousness.

What makes concussion in youth sports unique?

Most of what scientists had known about concussion came from adult athletes, boxers in particular. Over recent years concussion and professional football have been widely discussed in the media resulting in a much raised awareness of the risks of concussion in sports which has in turn led to questions about concussions and young athletes.

As we know, the brains of children continue to develop from birth to at least the early twenties. It has long been the belief that children are resilient and can more easily “bounce back” from injuries. This may be true for broken bones and torn ligaments; however, current evidence shows that adults recover from concussion faster than children and adolescents. The question then becomes “What effect does concussion have on the developing brain?” The answer is yet unknown and scientists are currently searching for answers.

Young athletes are more at risk for concussion today than they were 20 years ago. Consider that many children play more than one sport throughout the year; they are also playing sports more often with public, private and traveling recreational leagues; and today’s young athletes are bigger and stronger than they were 20 years ago. In the meanwhile it is important that we adopt a most conservative approach to concussion issues and children.