Sideline evaluation

Published August 5, 2007


Here are steps derived from sideline evaluations of the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers to determine if a player has a concussion:

Mental status

1. Orientation: Ask general questions (month, date, day of week, year, time) and/or football-related questions (name of opponent, quarter, score, stadium, city - but turn player away from the scoreboard before asking questions).

2. Memory: Test immediate recall by asking the player to repeat three to five words, repeat again after concentration tasks, such as having the player describe what happened in recent quarter and the last thing he remembers before the hit.

3. Concentration: Have the player repeat days and months backward, and repeat three to five digits backward. Ask player to say letters and numbers alternately, such as 1A2B3C and so on.

Neurological check

Test speech, eye movements, as well as pupil size and reaction to light; check player's gait, perform tests such as touching finger to nose.

Exertion exam

Have player sprint 40 yards, do pushups and situps - observe and ask how he feels.

Other ways to evaluate a young athlete

- Moves clumsily.

- Answers questions slowly.

- Loses consciousness.

- Shows behavior or personality changes.

Symptons reported by athlete

- Headache

- Nausea

- Balance problems or dizziness

- Double or fuzzy vision

- Sensitivity to light or noise

- Feeling sluggish

- Feeling foggy or groggy

- Concentration or memory problems

- Confusion

If you suspect a player has a concussion, take these steps

1. Remove athlete from play.

2. Ensure athlete is evaluated by an appropriate health-care professional. Do not try to judge the seriousness of the injury yourself.

3. Inform athlete's parents or guardians about the known or possible concussion.

4. Allow athlete to return to play only with permission from an appropriate health-care professional.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; NFL