Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's
Concussion Clinic
Pediatric Headache Clinic

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month making it a great time to review the basics. A brain injury in a child can range from mild to severe. A mild brain injury is called a concussion. 

Brain Injury Awareness Month logo


The signs and symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Light sensitivity
  • Balance problems
  • Responding slowly
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Change in mood or behavior
  • Trouble answering questions properly
  • Confusion or feeling dazed or “not right”
  • Loss of consciousness (usually brief, for seconds to minutes)

Symptoms typically will present soon after the head injury, but sometimes you may not be sure if it’s a brain injury right away and symptoms of the concussion can show up hours to days later.

If your child has a head injury, it’s important to watch for any signs and symptoms over the next few days. If your child plays sports, you should remove him/her from play immediately after a head injury and do not have him/her return to the activity until you know for sure that your child has not experienced a concussion or more serious injury.


Signs of a more serious injury that require immediate attention in the emergency room and likely require head imaging (CT scan) can include:

  • Repetitive vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Worsening confusion or change in behavior
  • A headache that is progressively worsening
  • Continuous drowsiness or inability to wake up
  • Slurred speech or repeating oneself over and over
  • Decreased coordination or falling that is not improving
  • In an infant or toddler - crying inconsolably or not eating
Young child on floor, holding his head

A CT scan is not used to diagnose a concussion but is done to rule out something more serious like a skull fracture, brain bleed or bruise. It is usually done in the setting of the emergency room and the emergency room doctor will determine at the time of the assessment if imaging is necessary. A CT scan is less helpful outside of this setting.

If you have any concerns about your child’s head injury at all, it’s important to have him/her see a pediatrician for evaluation as soon as possible. Your pediatrician can then determine if immediate attention is necessary such as going to the emergency room, head imaging or referral to a specialist. Most symptoms after an injury will start to subside after a week; however, a referral to a specialist is often needed if symptoms are not getting better. At Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's, we have a Concussion Clinic for young patients who have experienced a recent concussion, with specialists from Neurology, Neurosurgery and Sports Medicine


Read more about concussions here.