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January 2013, Volume 43 Number 1 , p 50 - 55


  • Colleen Norton PhD, RN, CCRN
  • Shara J. Feltz BSN, RN
  • Angela Brocker MS, RNC-NIC
  • Margaret Granitto MSN, RN, CRNP


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS of concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), are temporary, but repeated concussions can lead to long-term debilitating conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease.1 Youth athletes, who may experience repeated concussions while playing sports, are especially vulnerable to lasting brain damage.This article discusses the nurse's role in assessing and caring for a patient with a concussion and in educating patients, parents, teachers, and coaches about this type of head injury. By staying up-to-date with current assessment and care practices, the nurse is in a pivotal position to protect children and young athletes from long-term consequences of concussion.Concussion and MTBI are often used interchangeably. Some experts consider them synonyms; others classify concussions as a subset of MTBI.2,3 According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "[t]echnically, a concussion is a short loss of consciousness in response to a head injury, but in common language the term has come to mean any minor injury to the head or brain."4 In this article, the term concussion is used broadly to describe an MTBI causing a temporary loss of normal brain function, with or without a loss of consciousness.3,5Concussions can be caused by a direct blow to the head or neck, or from trauma that causes brain injury due to abrupt acceleration or deceleration forces. The patient may have no outward signs of injury, and neuroimaging studies are usually negative.2 Common causes include sports injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and falls.Signs and symptoms of concussion include headache and problems with concentration, balance, coordination, and memory. As already noted, concussions don't necessarily cause a loss of consciousness. Sports-related concussions usually occur at lower velocities and are less likely to result in loss of consciousness than concussions from other causes.6 Because symptoms

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