When should an athlete leave the game after a suspected concussion? A good rule of thumb is that if you think there is a possibility the athlete had a concussion, you should keep them out of play until they can be evaluated by a healthcare provider. The saying goes, “when in doubt, sit them out!” Watching for a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a blow to the body causing the head to move quickly back and forth can help to alert you to the possibility of a concussion. Watch for any signs or symptoms from the athlete after this occurs. This is very important because it is dangerous to continue playing after having a concussion. It increases the risk of having a second concussion which can cause serious problems and can even be fatal.
When to Leave the Game: Signs and Symptoms
Here are some initial signs of concussion to watch for to help decide if the athlete should leave the game. The first sign to watch for is if the athlete says something like “I just don’t feel right”. Check to see if the athlete can remember what happened before or after the event. Next, you should look to see if they appear dazed or stunned. You should see if they are forgetful or confused. Watch to see if they are moving clumsily and answering questions slowly. A concussion can happen with or without losing consciousness, but if they did lose consciousness even briefly this is also a sign of concussion.
See if they are reporting any symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, balance problems, if they are bothered by light or noise, or have difficulty concentrating. These signs and symptoms can begin soon after the injury, but sometimes won’t show up for hours to days.
When to Call 9-1-1 after a Concussion
Call 9-1-1 if you observe the following signs of a serious brain injury after a concussion:
- A headache that gets worse and does not go away
- Significant nausea or repeated vomiting
- Unusual behavior, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
- Difficulty recognizing people or places
- Drowsiness or inability to wake up
- Slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
- Convulsions or seizures
- Loss of consciousness
For more information on this topic: Concussion: When to Leave the game, check these out:
- A fact sheet for parents by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/youthsports/parents_eng.pdf
- A fact sheet for coaches by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/custom/headsupconcussion_fact_sheet_coaches.pdf
- A previous blog post with facts about concussions: https://equinoxphysicaltherapy.com/2021/05/5-facts-about-concussions/
*Amateur Football on the Boston Common, Boston, Massachusetts, 1900 by Lewis Hine