Pediatric Sports Concussion Treatment Program

Dedication to the Prevention & Treatment of Concussion in Young Athletes

Our pediatric sports medicine specialists at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s are dedicated to treating – and preventing – concussions in young athletes. We participate in extensive research projects to further our understanding of concussions, and we use the findings to improve treatment and outcomes for our young patients.

We have a multidisciplinary team of concussion experts that work together to help concussion patients safely return to the sports they love. Our concussion care team includes specialists from pediatric sports medicine, orthopaedic surgery and neuropsychology. Together, these board-certified physicians offer the specialized training, experience and technology to diagnose, manage and treat sports related concussions in children of any age.

Accurate and Timely Concussion Diagnosis

Concussions are not exclusive to adult athletes. Unfortunately, there are frequent occurrences of concussions in youth sports. A fall on the field or a helmet-to-helmet tackle can cause a mild traumatic brain injury, otherwise known as a concussion. A quick and accurate concussion diagnosis is essential to prevent further and more serious injury.

Concussions can be difficult to recognize, and concussion symptoms in children can range from mild to severe. Symptoms can last for hours, days, weeks or even months. Common warning signs of a concussion include:

  • Headaches
  • Memory loss after head injury
  • Acting confused, asking the same question over and over, slurring words or loss of concentration and focus
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded, seeing "stars in vision", having blurry vision or experiencing ringing in the ears
  • Not being able to stand or walk, or having balance and coordination problems
  • Feeling nauseated or throwing up
  • Passing out

If your child experiences any of these symptoms of concussions, please see a concussion specialist as soon as possible.

State-of-the-Art Neuropsychological Baseline Assessments

Concussions are difficult to diagnosis because they often do not show up in imaging tests, like CT scans or MRI tests. Baseline assessments are changing how concussions are identified and managed. By assessing each student-athlete before the season begins, we can more accurately identify the concussion and monitor concussion recovery based on the individual.

Our sports related concussion specialists use the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) test for individualized assessments. Following this state-of-the-art national concussion protocol, baseline reports give us an individualized comparison for any suspected sports injury. These assessments include:

  • Reaction time to a 1/100th of a second
  • Memory
  • Processing speed
  • Player symptoms

Following a suspected sports related concussion, the athlete will repeat the computerized test and additional tests that are sensitive to concussion side effects. These results are then interpreted by one of the sports concussion team neuropsychologists to help monitor the brain’s recovery. The results help determine when it is safe for the athlete to return to their sport or activity.

The pre-season ImPACT test is not a diagnostic tool and is not used to determine if a student-athlete is more or less susceptible to concussions.

Vigilant Monitoring for Safe Concussion Recovery

An important part of concussion treatment is to get plenty of rest. This includes good sleep at night, as well as naps or rest breaks during the day. Some physical activities and sports will need to be avoided during concussion recovery time. In some cases, prescription medication may be prescribed to alleviate pain and headaches. Our concussion specialists at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s also take the time to educate our patients about the risk of re-injury.

It’s crucial to closely monitor symptoms after a concussion is sustained. Our team of neuropsychologists and concussion experts performs regular assessments to ensure a safe recovery, including both physical and cognitive tests. We develop a concussion recovery timetable to help each patient return to school, sports and other activities based on their individual care journey. We also communicate evaluation results and treatment recommendations to parents, coaches, school personnel and the referring physician so patients can be carefully monitored on the path to a full recovery.

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