Concussion: (n) an injury to an organ, especially the brain, produced by a violent blow and followed by a temporary or prolonged loss of function.
Up to a million high school and college athletes get them every year, and as more doctors learn about the long-term effects of the injury, the more concern there is about how they may impact the teen athlete's brain.
While college football is where the injury may be the most obvious, a new study shows that athletes on the soccer field and on the basketball court get concussions almost as often.
While an athlete may seem fine at first immediately following a significant fall or hard hit, alert adults may want to keep an eye out for signs of concussion hours after a game is over.
A new computer program appropriately named imPACT is helping. With imPACT, students take a special computer test before the season even begins. A player will take the test a second time after an injury. Those two scores are compared, and if they don't match up, the player is out until they do.
Experts agree: if in doubt, sit it out.
That might be one of the hardest things an athletic director like Saint Rita of Cascia High School's Zach Blaszak has to do, but enforcing complete rest until there's a full recovery is crucial to protecting the young brain.
Also important, according to doctors and athletic trainers, is to recognize what's happened out there on the field or in the court, and to immediately ask the right questions.
"Are you having a headache, are you having trouble concentrating or remembering, what was the last play you were in? Can you remember what happened to you,"neurosurgeon Dr. Gail Rosseau states as possible things to ask.
At the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, they've even created a card that parents can keep in their wallets that lists the signs of concussion, and the right questions to ask.
"It's better to look out for the next 60 years instead of the next 60 minutes of a football game," Blaszak said.