Kids and Concussions: What You Need to Know

Kids and Concussions: What You Need to Know

Kids and Concussions: What You Need to Know

Lee esto en EspañolA concussion is not just a bump on the head-- it’s actually a kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat nearly 175,000 children and teens for sports-related TBIs, including concussions.

Concussions aren’t just caused by playing football. The activities that cause the greatest number of TBI-related emergency department visits include football, bicycling, basketball and soccer. In children under the age of 10, playground injuries are one of the leading causes of recreation-related TBIs in children. Bottom line: be alert for concussions no matter what sport or recreational activity your child is involved in.

Young children, teenagers and young adults are especially at risk because their brains are still developing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion can occur from a fall or blow to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This jostling can damage the brain. A concussion can occur without loss of consciousness. Signs of a concussion can be subtle, so you may not notice them if you’re not looking for them. Additionally, kids may not report their symptoms. Be alert to new symptoms or changes in behavior, as some symptoms show up right away and others might not show up for a few days.

Here are some more subtle signs a young athlete may have a concussion:

  • Has sensitivity to light or noise
  • Experiences ringing in the ears
  • Sleeps more or less than normal
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Moves clumsily
  • Has a headache
  • Can’t recall events just prior to or after the injury
  • Has trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Shows behavior, mood or personality changes

When to Contact a Doctor
Whenever a concussion is suspected, the athlete should be immediately evaluated by a doctor.
Some warning signs that warrant immediate medical help include:

  • Vomiting or stiff neck
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache that does not go away, is severe or gets worse
  • Changes in mental function or behavior
  • Weakness and/or numbness of any part of the body
  • Extreme drowsiness, confusion or decreased alertness
  • Unequal pupils or other visual changes
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Poor coordination, restlessness or agitation

Remember, head injuries may also be accompanied by injuries to other parts of the body, including the neck or spine.

Recovery Time
An athlete who returns to the game while still suffering symptoms is at risk for serious, permanent brain damage. According to research, kids recover from concussions slower than adults, so crucial that kids be symptom-free and cleared by a doctor before restarting any activity.

soccerFollowing a concussion, young athletes may also need to ease back into sports gradually, working up to full speed and full contact. Rest can help the brain heal. Check with your doctor for specific recommendations related to activity limitations following a concussion and how and when to return to regular activities. They may recommend time away from practice, games and exercise. Your child may need to ease back into school and might need extra time with tests and schoolwork.

Lower the Risk of a Concussion
There is no sure-fire way to prevent a concussion. But there are steps you can take to lower your young athlete’s risk for one.

  • Properly fitted bicycle helmets should be worn for all bicycling activities.
  • Athletes should wear appropriate and properly fitted helmets and gear for contact sports, including football and hockey.
  • Educate yourself and your child about concussion symptoms.
  • Encourage your child to report all episodes of head trauma and injury immediately. Let them know it’s better to sit out a short while recovering than risk missing the entire season — or worse — because of an early return.
  • Make sure you and your child are familiar with all team and league concussion and safe-play policies.

Of course, it's not only about having a helmet that will help to protect your child, but also about using and finding a properly fitted and effective helmet for the sport in question. Not sure where to start? The CDC has some really helpful information in this fact sheet! Check it out...print it out...give it to your friends!

How did you care for your child when they experienced a concussion? Share your story below in the comments!