concussion brain

Nearly 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur every year. On the playing field, it’s vital for coaches and medical staff to recognize a concussion as it happens, and take the appropriate steps to ensure the athlete’s safety. This type of injury is most commonly caused by a blow to the head, but can also occur when the upper body is jolted or forcefully rattled. Concussions can happen in various sports and activities and can be very dangerous if not dealt with and treated in the correct manner. By understanding the specific signs and symptoms of a concussion, players, coaches and medical staff can be properly prepared for any serious injury that may occur on the field.

If you suspect an athlete has sustained a concussion, here are some helpful guidelines from Jonathan French, PsyD, of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.


Ask the athlete the following questions:

  • What stadium is this?
  • What month is it?
  • What city is this?
  • Who is the opposing team?


Ask the athlete the following questions:

  • What happened in the prior quarter/period?
  • Do you remember the hit?
  • What do you remember just prior to the hit?
  • What was the score of the game prior to the hit?


Ask the athlete to do the following:

  • Repeat the days of the week backward (starting with today).
  • Repeat these numbers backward: 63 and 419.

Concussion Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms an athlete may report:

If an athlete has any of the above signs or symptoms, he/she should be removed from play. When in doubt, sit them out.

If an athlete is removed from play due to a suspected concussion, they should be evaluated initially by the on-site medical staff if available. They should then follow up with a provider specifically trained in the treatment and management of concussions. Because concussions are common, particularly in contact sports such as football and hockey, this injury requires serious rest and recovery and should not be overlooked by fellow players, coaches or medical staff on scene. Most concussive brain injuries are mild, but by preparing for the worst we can ensure that all recreation-related activities are fun-filled and safe.

For more information, visit the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program website or call 1-855-93-SPORT.