Concussion awareness is louder and more prevalent than it has been in decades forcing parents, coaches and healthcare professionals to educate themselves on recognizing and preventing the injury. Concussions can range from mild to severe causing minimal problems to a major detrimental brain injury. Having the ability to recognize a possible concussion and bring medical attention to a child is instrumental in preventing serious complications. Children’s heads are meant to be bumped and it is important to remember every bump is not necessarily a major “run to the ER” problem. However, when there is a problem it is important to recognize the injury.
What is a concussion?
Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries. They usually get better with rest and appropriate care. I like to tell parents and children a concussion is like a “brain bruise.” When you bump your ankle, you can see the black and blue mark. When you bump your head, you have a delicate and powerful organ behind the skull, and you cannot visualize black and blue marks like you can on an ankle. If you do not care for the ankle until it heals, you can make the injury worse. The ankle must rest before you put pressure on it just as the brain must rest before you use it.
What are signs of a concussion?
A concussion may occur with or without a loss of consciousness. More than likely the child will be disoriented or confused immediately after the injury and may have memory issues immediately following the concussion. Short and long term symptoms of a concussion will vary depending on the brain injury. Symptoms range from light sensitivity to headaches and fatigue. You can find a full list of concussion symptoms here.
When should I take my child to the doctor or emergency room?
If you feel your child may have suffered from a concussion, but is in no immediate danger, they should see their pediatrician as soon as possible (within 24 hours). They should avoid all physical contact sports or activities until the appropriate medical professional evaluates them. Their doctor will evaluate and manage their care until fully healed. If your child has a head injury and is persistently vomiting, has trouble walking, unequal pupils, feels numbness/tingling in any extremity, passes out after the injury, can not be woken up or has severe amnesia, they must be taken to the emergency room to be evaluated immediately.
How do I prevent concussions?
All concussions cannot be prevented however there are simple preventative measures that may help protect your child from a head injury. Helmets are the safest and most effective way of preventing a concussion. When your child is riding a bike, rollerblading or skateboarding it is vital to have an appropriate fitting helmet. You can bring the helmet to any bike store and they will ensure the helmet fits appropriately. Be sure to encourage children to jump away from the edge of a diving board or pool and to walk slowly when the grass or floor is wet around a pool. Avoid climbing trees that are unstable or that have many broken limbs. If possible, children should play on playgrounds with soft landings rather than concrete. If your child has a concussion, they should avoid all outdoor activities until cleared by their doctor. Re-injury of a concussion can be extremely dangerous to your child.
Children are adventurous and curious; we never want to take that away from them. Use appropriate judgement and prevention tools, but let your child fall and learn boundaries. Be smart if an injury does occur and have a medical professional evaluate your child. Have a safe summer!