Parents need to recognize the symptoms and take appropriate action.

Q: I’ve heard a lot of concern about concussions, but young athletes take hard hits all the time. Are concussions really that serious?

A: To define it simply: A concussion is, in fact, a type of traumatic brain injury. There are several myths about concussions that make people think they’re less of a concern than they really are, but they should always been taken seriously.

Myth: My child didn’t get hit in the head, so they can’t have a concussion. The majority of concussions do involve direct impact to the head, such as the head hitting the ground or another hard surface, but concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move suddenly or abruptly change its direction, leading to an indirect force being transmitted to the brain.

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Myth: My athlete didn’t black out, so that’s not a concussion. Fewer than 10 percent of concussions involve a loss of consciousness. Some young athletes who don’t black out after a hard hit may think it’s OK to keep playing, but it is extremely dangerous to play through a concussion. Symptoms don’t always start immediately, and they can evolve over time after an injury. Playing through a concussion could lead to a rare condition called Second Impact Syndrome—a situation typically seen only in people younger than age 21 that can result in paralysis or even death from a subsequent blow to the head. We also know from research studies that athletes who continue to play following a concussion are more likely to have prolonged symptoms compared with those who stop right away and get checked out.

Myth: A concussion is a bruise to the brain. A concussion is actually a functional injury, which means it affects how the brain works. This is why symptoms of a concussion can include trouble remembering and concentrating, and feeling confused.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

For more concussion info, download a free guide for parents.

Steven Cuff, M.D., is co-director of the Sports Concussion Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.