Concussions In Kids Are More Common Than You Think

doctor examining kid with concussion

By Dr. Shakha Gillin

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t worried about my 7-year old son’s interest in playing football because of concussions. As a sideline reporter I’ve seen, with my own eyes, football players knocked out because of hits to the head.

Yet when my daughters wanted to take horseback riding lessons, I didn’t think twice about the possibility of a concussion…even though they would be falling off a 1,000 pound Animal at galloping speed. Then I stumbled upon this Internet article and couldn’t believe my eyes:


Almost half of equestrian riders (44%) experienced concussions during their careers. Those riders who suffered a brain injury were likely to return to riding without seeking medical clearance. Almost 40% of riders were never educated regarding concussions, while 15% received education from their trainers.

Photo courtesy instagram @eqcaptures

It got me thinking. Concussions from football have dominated recent headlines and the side effect of that is everyone has become more aware of the potential for head injuries in the sport. But don’t think for a second that your children are safe from head injuries just because they don’t play football.

Concussions are quite common in children and are caused by a variety of activities. In fact, I know two kids who recently suffered concussions. One from practicing a cartwheel, the other fell out of a bunk bed. My own daughter suffered one when she zip-lined straight into a tree. I even had one as a kid, when I was knocked unconscious after sliding into a wall during a game of tag.

What parents need to know is a concussion is a concussion and if volunteer coaches, parents, teachers and teammates don’t know what to look for, they can often go undiagnosed.

I asked pediatrician Dr. Shaka Gillin to give us a concussion primer.
(Like all information on this site it is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.)

Concussions In Kids Are More Common Than You Think

(By Dr. Shaka Gillin, MD, FAAP)

Concussions can happen in many sports, including football, hockey, soccer, and surfing. As important as the cause of the concussion, is knowing how to help your child if they do have one.

First, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects the way the brain functions. Concussions are common.

A concussion can result from trauma to the head, neck, and upper body. It jolts the brain. While your child’s brain is recovering from this jolt, your child may have symptoms caused by impaired brain function. These symptoms include headaches, problems with concentration, memory lapses and sleep disturbances. Your child may not be able to do classwork properly.

If your child has a hit to the head, neck, or upper body, and has any symptoms of altered brain function in any way, you need to take your child to a doctor.

Treatment involves rest. This means brain rest! No texting, video games, phones, or iPads. If you let your child’s brain rest, it can recover.

While your child is recovering, it is imperative NOT TO have a second brain injury. We know second brain injuries can cause permanent and severe brain injury. So we want to make sure they do not return to any activity that could lead to another concussion. If your child has a concussion, they will be asked to limit activity, and when they return, they will return gradually. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.

I advise all parents and athletes to watch a short 30-minute video on concussions.

Take-home points:

  • Concussions are common.
  • With any symptoms that the brain isn’t working properly (headaches, confusion, problems with focus, schoolwork, sleep and emotions), seek medical attention and do not allow your child to continue playing any sport.
  • After a concussion, your child will need to rest, and return to sports slowly. This is to prevent serious brain damage.
  • Watch the video:


shakha headshot



Dr. Shakha Gillin is the co-founder of Coast Pediatrics in Del Mar, CA. She has a special interest in preventative care, specifically, healthy and active lifestyles for children. She and her husband have a son.




  1. I had 3 concussions in 15 months when I was 12-13 years old.

    The first one was in football. I was blindsided and knocked out. The coach suggested I go home, so I rode my bike home!

    The second was in the schoolyard where I and another boy collided heads. Again, I was knocked out. The school nurse drew a circle around the hematoma on my forehead (for my parents to see if it swelled more later) and sent me back to class with an ice pack. I rode my bicycle home after school ended.

    The third concussion was the worst. I was skate boarding and fell, hitting my head on the sidewalk. When I awoke, I was so disoriented that I couldn’t find my way home. We lived on military-base housing and I actually walked into the wrong house. The kind housewife there helped me get home. Dad did nothing. Mom monitored me and checked to see if I was ok a couple times that night. No physical restrictions were placed on me.

    We’ve come a long way in awareness!

  2. 2 years ago my 15 yr old daughter ran into a line judge while playing volleyball during a state tournament match. She finished match after the collision but was not herself. In lockerrom after match, when she was summoned to media room she could not stand up right. 6 Weeks later she was cleared but still has some lingering effects. Baseline testing prior to injury would have helped in determining when she was back to “normal.”

  3. 16 years old,
    Helmet to helmet
    Showed no obvious symptoms
    Sent right back in
    Had no memory of the rest of the game, very disturbing to watch the game film
    Played two more years without any problems

  4. Not a concussion that I can recall, but I think I had seizures. I would go into a staring phase and stay frozen that way for at least five minutes, or more. My parents never thought anything about it, but I work in healthcare now and believe that I was having seizures. No one else in the family had this problem. Maybe I had a concussion when I was little wee? I was the youngest of three and not really watched over carefully.


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