Your brain is a delicate organ; luckily, the fluid between the brain and the bony skull usually provides plenty of cushioning. If you hit your head very hard, however, your brain can shake inside of your skull, potentially causing serious problems with brain function. Sports that can boost your risk of a concussion include those that potentially involve collisions, such as snowboarding, boxing, hockey, soccer, football, biking and skiing.

Symptoms of a concussion can vary, and if you think you or a friend, family member or teammate may have suffered from a concussion, it’s important to visit a physician as soon as possible, since an untreated concussion can have symptoms that persist for months, and can even cause permanent brain damage. Common symptoms include losing consciousness after the head injury; feeling drowsy; and being unable to recall what happened around the time of the injury. Signs of a concussion that may require emergency treatment include becoming disoriented or confused; having pupils that are unequally dilated; vomiting; muscle weakness; and trouble walking. Because concussions can involve the head and spine, take care when moving someone who may have had a concussion.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the concussion. For children and young adults, a concussion that causes loss of consciousness generally means the athlete will have to wait at least three months to resume practice. A trained health professional can evaluate when it is safe to return to training. Sufficient rest is crucial before returning to play to prevent potentially serious complications that can arise if a concussion does not heal fully, or if the athlete suffers from another brain injury.

To prevent a concussion, be sure to wear adequate protective gear, such as a helmet, when participating in high-risk sports such as biking or skateboarding.