What You Need To Know If You Suspect Your Child Has A Concussion

It’s a gut-wrenching feeling to see your child’s head smack the court after a fall in basketball or get elbowed in the temple by another kid charging the plate in baseball. And even if he or she doesn’t lose consciousness, any sign of a concussion should be taken seriously. Learn what you should do if you suspect a concussion.

Following a concussion, rest is the key. The child/adolescent should not participate in any high risk activities (e.g., sports, PE, recess, riding a bike or other physical activities that increase normal heart rate.) Limit activities that require a lot of lengthy mental activity or concentration (such as homework, schoolwork, job-related activities, extended video game playing), as this can make the symptoms worse. Get good sleep; no late nights or sleepovers. Take naps if tired or drowsy. 

Ensure that your child is evaluated right away by an appropriate healthcare professional. Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. The experts at the Concussion Institute at GMC-Duluth have a number of methods that they can use to assess the severity of concussions and to develop an appropriate care plan. They will work with a student’s teachers, coaches, athletic trainer and other providers as needed to return your child to the classroom and playing field as quickly and as safely as possible.

Inform the school team—teachers, administrators, counselors, etc.—about your child’s injury and symptoms. Students who experience concussion symptoms often need extra help to perform school-related activities and may not perform at their best on tests. Rest breaks during the school day can also be helpful. As symptoms decrease during recovery, the extra help or supports can be removed slowly. Concussion Institute staff will work with your child’s school to manage the workload and schedule as your child recovers.

Be patient! It is normal for a child or adolescent to feel frustrated, sad and even angry because they cannot return to sports and/or recreation right away. With any injury, a full recovery will lower the chances of getting hurt again. It is better to miss one or two games than the whole season. Careful post-injury management will ensure the quickest and safest return to sports, and to the classroom.

Allow your child to return to play only with permission from a healthcare professional with experience in evaluating concussions. Recovery times vary across individuals, so you should be wary when permission is based on the amount of time spent “resting,” rather than measures of current symptoms and neurocognitive status. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. Prevent common long-term problems and the rare Second Impact Syndrome by seeking appropriate medical evaluation and approval for return to play. 

Once cleared—when 100% symptom free—be sure that your child follows a gradual return-to-play protocol under the supervision of a healthcare provider or certified athletic trainer with expertise in concussion management.

It is also known that rest is the best treatment after a concussion and helps the brain heal faster. If the athlete is still symptomatic, forcing him or her to exert either physically or mentally will likely lengthen the recovery period. This means abstaining from sports — including recess and PE — as well as any other activities that require sustained mental exertion, from test-taking to playing video games. Once an athlete is 100% symptom free at rest, a gradual return-to-play protocol is implemented to be sure that symptoms do not resurface with exertion. No athlete should ever return to play if concussion symptoms recur.

Management of concussion in youth is very important to prevent a rare but often fatal brain injury called Second Impact Syndrome. This syndrome may occur when an athlete suffers a mild concussion and then, within a short period of time, receives a second blow to the head before he or she has fully recovered. Rapid brain swelling can occur as the brain has not yet healed from the first hit. Increased intracranial pressure, if uncontrolled, can lead to death or severe neurological damage.

For more information, visit gwinnettsportsmed.com/concussion or cdc.gov/injury


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