Concussions can be difficult to recognize and there is no specific definition or test that can diagnose it. Clinical judgment and specific symptoms after an injury define concussion. The patient does not need to lose consciousness and the symptoms can come on gradually but usually appear immediately or shortly after the injury. Headache, dizziness, balance disturbance and disorientation are the most common symptoms. Cognitive defects can occur like confusion, delayed verbal responses, difficulty concentrating and feeling foggy.
Fortunately there is better understanding of concussion now by coaches and sports professionals and some states even require concussion training for coaches, athletes and parents. The first evaluation usually begins at the sideline and there are tools the coach can use to assess the severity. If there is any suggestion that the athlete has a concussion he/she should not return to play. Most of the time concussions do not require neuro-imaging (CT scans) unless there is suspicion of more serious injury like fracture or cervical spine involvement. CT scans and MRIs cannot diagnose concussion.
Most children will recover fully but concussion is a serious event and little is known about the extent of time recovery will take so it needs to be individualized to the patient. Prolonged headache would indicate that the student is recovering slowly.
Don't hesitate to see a physician if you or a child has suffered a concussion.