A while back, I wrote a blog about concussions and head injuries. Reading it now, I can tell you it was academic and informative, with lots on information on what to look for, how to treat it and when to seek medical attention. Since then, our 8-year old son, the hockey player, suffered his first concussion, and boy was it different to actually LIVE and take care of a kid with a concussion! We’ve had a few teammates with concussions this year, so I thought I would revisit the subject, this time from a different vantage point: as a mom. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding concussions in children I have been asked:
- What exactly is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Most concussions are caused by a direct blow to the head, face or neck, and they occur often; reports state concussions in young athletes account for anywhere between 150,000-250,000 ER visits per year! is important to realize that concussions in younger athletes will take longer to heal; remember young brains are still developing. Also know that studies show that girls have a harder time recovering from concussions than boys do.
The most important thing to remember regarding concussions is this: we must allow our child’s brain to heal completely before returning to play. A second concussion before the first one heals, known as Second Impact Syndrome, could have serious and even catastrophic consequences. The way I explain it to young athletes, including my own son, is this: “you wouldn’t play with a broken arm, would you? The arm needs to heal, because playing with a broken arm means you won’t be able to play 100%, your arm will never completely heal, and you are likely to have another injury. It is no different with the brain. If you want to play for a long time, let it heal. Then play.”
- Do helmets protect against a concussion? What are the highest risk sports?
Helmets were designed for preventing skull fractures and serious head trauma; unfortunately, they do not protect against concussions (but kids should still always wear helmets!). Highest risk sports are the obvious; football, hockey (gulp!), lacrosse, boxing. However, most sports medicine doctors at the last conference I attended were discussing the very high numbers of concussions in girl’s soccer and cheer!
- What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Only 10% of concussions will have loss of consciousness, so every athlete who sustains a direct hit to the head should be evaluated by a trained professional (coach, trainer, etc) before he or she is allowed to return to play.
- Nausea, Vomiting
- Balance problems
- Visual problems
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Dazed or confused, unequal pupils
- Difficulty remembering
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling slowed down
- Feeling mentally “foggy”
- Repeats questions, answers questions slowly
- Short temper, easily frustrated
- Sleeping less than usual
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleeping more than usual
- Difficulty laying flat (made my son’s dizziness worse)
Refer to this list if you ever need to, and remember that headaches and vomiting are not the only symptoms of a concussion!
- Stay tuned for Part 2 on Thursday, and you’ll get the answers to the following questions
As a parent, what can I do immediately to help my child with a concussion?
Do I need to take my son/daughter to the Emergency Room? What about CT or MRI?
Return to School and Play: a Step-Up approach
I’ve heard of additional testing and supplements, are they recommended?
When and How should I contact a Concussion Specialist?