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JAMA Patient Page
November 19, 2003

Concussion in Sports

JAMA. 2003;290(19):2628. doi:10.1001/jama.290.19.2520

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 300 000 sports-related brain injuries occur in the United States each year. Concussions can also occur as the result of head injury from a fall or during a vehicle crash. The November 19, 2003, issue of JAMA includes 2 articles about concussions in college football players.

Symptoms and signs of a concussion

  • Headache

  • Inability to remember what happened just before and just after the head injury

  • Confusion

  • Inability to carry out a simple set of instructions

  • Vision disturbance

  • Unsteadiness, loss of balance

  • Nausea, vomiting

An individual does not have to have lost consciousness to have a concussion. In many cases, the symptoms of a mild concussion disappear within minutes. If the concussion occurs while playing a sport, the player should be taken out of play and should not be allowed to continue playing in the current game or practice. New guidelines emphasize a stepwise, medically supervised "return to play" strategy depending on the severity of the concussion.

Later effects

Individuals who have a head injury may still have poor memory and concentration, headache, fatigue, and dizziness for several weeks to months. This is known as post-concussion syndrome. Players who return to the game or practice before a concussion has completely resolved and then sustain a second head injury are at risk for severe brain injury or even death.


Always make sure to wear properly fitting protective head gear when playing a contact sport or while engaging in any other activity during which a blow to the head can occur, including riding a bicycle or motorcycle, skateboarding, or inline skating.

For more information

Inform yourself

To find this and other JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page on traumatic brain injury was published in the June 11, 2003, issue.

Sources: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American Neurological Association, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

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