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What every parent needs to know about concussions

November 11, 2014

We often think of concussions in terms of sports, most commonly football and other collision sports. Concussions also commonly occur in contact sports where helmets aren’t worn like soccer, basketball, wrestling or lacrosse. However, every parent needs to know about this injury, even if your kids aren’t involved in sports. Concussions can occur from a fall from a bicycle or skateboard, running into a goalpost, or getting hit in the head by a ball or other moving object.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a blow to the body that makes the head move back and forth rapidly. The sudden force causes the brain to bounce around or twist within the skull, causing damage to the brain cells and chemical changes within the brain. These chemical changes may make the brain more sensitive to stress or other injury until it recovers. While doctors may describe this as a “mild” brain injury since it is not life-threatening, the effects of a concussion can be serious.

What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?

Signs and symptoms of a concussion usually appear soon after the injury occurs, but some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. If your child has sustained a bump or blow to the head and experiences any of the following, it might be a sign of a concussion:
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Feels “pressure” in head
  • Loses consciousness
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Feeling “foggy” or sluggish
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
You should continue to monitor your child for these signs and symptoms for a few days after the injury occurs.

What should I do if I think my child might have a concussion?

If you think your child may have a concussion, contact your child’s health care provider. If your child is playing sports, remove him or her from the game and don’t resume playing until evaluated by a healthcare professional who is experienced at diagnosing concussions. If your child returns to play too quickly, before the brain is fully healed, they are at risk for a repeat concussion which can be much more serious.

How is a concussion treated?

The best treatment for a concussion is complete rest from all physical and mental activity. Television, loud music, and use of computers should be very limited or stopped. Even a child’s school participation may need to be altered according to the child’s symptoms.

Recovery time from a concussion varies based on the individual, the severity of the injury and whether the person has had repeat concussions. Returning to physical activity and sports participation should occur in a gradual manner, under the direction of your child’s doctor, once the brain is healed and the child has no symptoms of concussion while at rest.

Let your child’s doctor know if your child’s concussion symptoms worsen or if they experience a change in behavior, as this is a sign that the concussion has not fully healed.

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