Concussions in Kids and Teens

This content has been clinically reviewed by Harold King, A.T.C.

Concussions are a common and dangerous injury suffered by young athletes that can occur with or without loss of consciousness. In fact, many symptoms of concussion don’t show up until 1 to 3 days after the injury. 

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of a concussion from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

While athletes of all ages and activity levels are at risk, those playing soccer and football are some of the most likely to suffer a concussion while on the field.

For football players, concussions are the result of helmet-to-helmet contact, improper tackling techniques, dangerous falls and running plays, among other factors. Linebackers are the most susceptible defensive players; running backs are the most susceptible offensive players.

For soccer players, concussions are most often caused by improper heading techniques, or from head-to-head and arm-to-head contact while competing for 50/50 balls in the air. Collisions with other players on the field, or being kicked in the head by a high kick or side tackle can also result in concussions.

Keeping Your Kids Safe

As dangerous as concussions are, you can keep your kids safe. These quick pointers can help parents, coaches and players keep everyone on the field injury-free.

Preventing football concussions

  • All safety and protective equipment should fit properly and be in good working condition.
  • Young athletes should be taught proper heads-up tackling techniques, and those techniques should be enforced and practiced at all times.
  • Avoid unnecessary helmet-to-helmet contact.
  • Rules of safe play and sportsmanship should be enforced at all times.
  • If a player suffers a head injury, coaches and referees should remove players from the game immediately so they can be properly evaluated; players should not return to the field until they are cleared by their doctor.

Preventing soccer concussions

US Soccer has recently implemented new concussion guidelines for kids and teens as a way to keep young athletes safe. No children under the age of 10 should be heading the ball during practice or games. For athletes ages 11 to 13, heading should be limited to practice only.

When heading the ball:

  • Lead with the trunk of the body, and pull from the core.
  • Communicate clearly with other teammates and players to let them know you’re going for a header.
  • Be confident and relaxed, rather than stiff-bodied when going for the ball.
  • Watch the ball at all times.
  • Make contact with the ball with the “sweet spot” of your forehead – slightly beneath the hairline in the middle.

Other prevention tips:

  • Avoid head-to-head, arm-to-head, or foot-to-head collisions with other athletes.
  • As coaches and referees, all rules of fair play and sportsmanship should be enforced.
  • If your child has suffered a head injury, take her out of the game and have her evaluated by a physician.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.