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About 20% of teens nationwide report having been diagnosed with a concussion. Read on to learn how to spot and treat a concussion, and how KS and its staff support the healing process. This column is brought to you by the KS Health Services Department - Mālama Ola (To Care for Life).

Mālama Ola Minute:  A heads up on concussions

Jul. 26, 2019

According to a recent letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 20% of teens nationwide report having been diagnosed with a concussion – most commonly from an athletic or recreational activity – and nearly 6% say they’ve had more than one concussion.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can create chemical changes in the brain and sometimes damage brain cells, leading to problems with thinking or other neurological symptoms.

Any student suspected of having a concussion during a sport or activity should immediately be sidelined.

Symptoms of a concussion

Remembering and thinking

  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering new information


  • Nausea or vomiting (early on)
  • Headache or blurry vision
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to noise or light


  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness or anxiety

Sleep disturbances

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

Severe symptoms such as a worsening headache, slurred speech, numbness or weakness, repeated vomiting, seizures, confusion, an enlarged pupil in one eye, and a decreased level or loss of consciousness could indicate a more serious problem and warrant emergency transportation to a medical facility. Those without severe symptoms do not need to go to a medical facility. Head imaging such as MRIs or CT scans are not needed to diagnose a concussion.

Symptoms will vary from student to student. Some symptoms may appear immediately, and some may not appear for days or even weeks. If your child exhibits any worsening signs or symptoms of a concussion, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The general approach to concussion recovery begins with physical and mental rest, including avoidance of screen time. Activities can then be slowly increased, provided they do not worsen symptoms.

Returning to school and sports after a concussion

After being cleared by a medical provider, students who return to school after a concussion may need to:

  • Take rest breaks as needed
  • Spend fewer hours at school
  • Be given more time to take tests or complete assignments
  • Have a reduction in homework assignments
  • Receive help with school work
  • Reduce time spent reading, writing, or on the computer

Students should be restricted from physical activities until they have returned to school full-time. Student athletes must complete KS’ gradual return-to-play protocol before being cleared to resume athletic activities.

At KS, athletic trainers, school counselors, behavioral health specialists, nurses and education administrators work collaboratively to support the recovery of students who have sustained a concussion. They communicate with teachers, coaches and activity leaders throughout the healing process to protect the health and safety of our students.

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