Concussion in children

What we know

1 in 5 children and adolescents have had a concussion diagnosed by a health professional.

Research reports that less than 50% of child concussions ever present for medical attention. Of those that seek medical attention, approximately 70% are symptom-free within 4 weeks. The remaining 30% can take longer to recover.

While we still have much to learn about concussion, there evidence-based guidelines that provide research-informed management protocols from the time of concussion through to full recovery.

7 key facts specific to children

  1. Children with concussion cannot be managed as adults.
  2. Concussions occur due to falls, non-contact activities (e.g., cycling, play) and contact sports.
  3. More than 70% of children recover within four weeks. The causes of delayed recovery for the remaining 30% can include concussion severity, pre-injuries, family mental health and trauma response.
  4. Acute management in Australia is varied and not always aligned with best evidence. Many children are not treated according to best practice and most families are not provided with guidance regarding their child’s recovery.
  5. Targeted multidisciplinary, evidence-based early intervention can accelerate recovery.
  6. There is a limited understanding of predictors of children at risk of a slow recovery (e.g., sex, age, pre-injury neurodevelopment and mental health problems, acute symptom burden, child and family anxiety).
  7. No one treatment is effective for all child concussions. Rather, treatment needs to be targeted to the individual child’s specific symptoms (physical, cognitive, mental health).

Contact sport is not the problem

  • Community messaging regarding child concussion and its consequences is often sensationalised and not underpinned by evidence, resulting in increased child and parent anxiety regarding participating in sport and return to activity after injury.
  • Physical and mental health benefits of continued sports participation are critically important in childhood development and disease prevention (e.g., obesity, diabetes, stroke).
  • In children, most concussions occur outside of contact sports (e.g., falls, non-contact sports and leisure play)
  • Multi-disciplinary symptom-targeted treatment methods will accelerate recovery post-concussion, and provide personalised, safe return to activities and sports.