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You've probably bumped your head before. Ouch! But some head bumps are worse than others. A serious hit to the head can hurt your brain and temporarily change the way your brain works. If that happens, the brain injury is called a concussion (say: kun-KUH-shun).

The bone of your skull protects your brain. Fluids, such as spinal fluid, also cushion the brain. But if someone's head gets hit hard enough, the brain can shift inside of the skull and knock against the bony surface of the skull.

Signs of a Concussion

Concussions are tricky. Your mom or coach probably won't be able to look at you and say for sure if you have a concussion. That's why you need to see a doctor.

But there are some signs that someone might have a concussion. For some problems, the person should go right to a hospital emergency room. For other problems, a parent can call the kid's doctor for advice about what to do next.

Go to a hospital emergency room for these symptoms:

Your mom or dad should call the doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms after getting hit in the head:

Doctors, coaches, and parents are paying more attention to concussions than they once did. Why? Because they now know that concussions can cause serious problems for kids and adults, especially if they don't get the right treatment.

Two Important Steps to Take

The right treatment usually means resting your body and your brain. You've probably heard about pro athletes who must miss some games after a concussion. It's the same for kids who play sports.

If the coach or your parent thinks you could have a concussion, you must take these two steps:

  1. Stop playing or practicing right away.
  2. Get checked out by a doctor before returning to practice or play in a game.

Kids can get concussions doing stuff other than sports, too. It could be a bike accident or a fall that causes a concussion — anything that causes a hit to the head. Kids who get a concussion need to get checked out by a doctor, follow the doctor's instructions, and get the doctor's OK before getting back to their normal routine.

Protect Your Brain

You might hear this and say: Do I have to? Here's why you should: Kids who rush it and don't recover fully from a concussion could get injured again because they're still wobbly from the first concussion. When kids don't recover fully, they are more likely to have problems, like headaches, that last for weeks or even months. It also can be hard for them to focus on stuff, like studying for a test.

It makes sense to take care of your brain, which is the boss of your body. Without it, you couldn't walk, talk, or think!

Want to be a concussion fighter? Here's how to do it:

Also wear a helmet when biking or doing other activities that need them, such as football, hockey, and skateboarding. Though a helmet can't prevent a concussion, it can prevent you from getting an even worse brain injury.

The good news is that most kids get better after a concussion and return to all their normal stuff, including school and sports.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: March 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationBrain Injury Association The mission of this group is to create a better future through brain injury prevention, research, education, and advocacy. Call: (800) 444-6443
Web SiteNational Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) The website of NCIPC contains a variety of injury prevention information.
OrganizationAmerican College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.
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