Wellbeing and Education 9 of 10

9. Concussion

What is Concussion?

Concussion is an injury to the brain, which results in a disturbance of its function. There are many symptoms of concussion, common ones being headache, dizziness, memory disturbance or balance problems.

What causes it?

Concussion can be caused by a direct blow to the head, but can also occur when a blow to another part of the body results in rapid movement of the brain, e.g. whiplash type injuries.

Onset of symptoms

The symptoms of concussion typically appear immediately, but their onset may be delayed and can appear at any time after the initial injury

It's important to remember that loss of consciousness doesn't always occur in concussion – in fact, it occurs in less than 10% of cases. Because of this, a concussed player may not have fallen to the ground after the injury, they could still be standing.

Who's at risk?

Concussions can happen to players at any age. However, children and adolescents (18 and under) are more susceptible to brain injury. They also:

  • take longer to recover
  • have more significant memory and mental processing issues
  • are more susceptible to rare and dangerous neurological complications, including death caused by a single or second impact.
  • Other risk factors include having had previous concussions (which also increases recovery time) and being female.

How to recognise concussion

If any of the following signs or symptoms are present after an injury, you should suspect that a player has a concussion and remove them from play or training immediately – with no return on the same day.

Signs of concussion – what you might see

Any one or more of the following visual clues can indicate a concussion:

  • Dazed, blank or vacant look
  • Lying motionless on ground / slow to get up
  • Unsteady on feet / balance problems or falling over / poor coordination
  • Loss of consciousness or responsiveness
  • Confused / not aware of play or events
  • Grabbing / clutching of head
  • Seizure (fits)
  • More emotional / irritable than normal for that person
  • Symptoms of concussion – what the injured player might talk about
  • Presence of any one or more of the following symptoms may suggest a concussion:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Mental clouding, confusion, or feeling slowed down
  • Visual problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness / feeling like 'in a fog' / difficulty concentrating
  • 'Pressure in head'
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

Speaking to the player

To help establish whether a player is injured, you can ask them a number of questions: incorrect answer(s) may suggest that they have a concussion. Some examples questions can be seen below – tailor them to your particular activity and even:

  • What venue are we at today / where are we now?
  • Which half is it now / approximately what time of day is it?
  • Who scored last in this game /how did you get here today?
  • What team did you play last game / where were you on this day last week?
  • Did your team win the last game / what were you doing this time last week?

What to do next

Anyone with a suspected concussion must be immediately removed from play.
Once safely removed from play they must not be returned to activity that day.
Teammates, coaches, match officials, team managers, administrators or parents who suspect someone may have concussion must do their best to ensure that they are removed in a safe manner.

If a neck injury is suspected, suitable guidelines regarding the management of this type of injury at pitchside should also be followed.

If any of the following are reported then the player should be transported for urgent medical assessment at the nearest hospital emergency department:

  • Severe neck pain
  • Deteriorating consciousness (more drowsy)
  • Increasing confusion or irritability
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Seizure (fit)
  • Double vision
  • Weakness or tingling / burning in arms or legs

In all cases of suspected concussion it's recommended that the player is referred to a medical or healthcare professional for diagnosis and advice, even if the symptoms resolve.

The FA has launched 'Concussion for players: lessons from the pitch' – a film aimed at raising awareness among players about the importance of recognising and responding to symptoms of concussion.

Click here to watch film "Concussion for Players"


The FA Concussion Guidelines 2015


Pocket Concussion Recognition Tool