CHoR is committed to educating families, caregivers and coaches about concussion symptoms and the devastating effects concussions can have – especially for children. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and we’d like to take this opportunity to encourage all of our readers to stay informed about this important health topic, this month and always.
Did you know that 90 percent of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness and that concussion symptoms may not appear right away? Improving care for concussions – and increasing the community’s understanding of this condition – is a focus of national efforts, educational programming and continued research. As concussions involve more behavior changes than visible physical injuries, it is especially important that parents are knowledgeable about this type of injury, as parents are likely to be the first to notice the behavior-related symptoms of a concussion in their child.
Special Report on Concussions
Concussions and re-injury
Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that can have a serious and lasting impact on a child’s physical and mental development. Any jolt or blow to the head that causes bruising, bleeding, swelling or tearing of the brain tissue may result in a concussion. There is a risk of an even more serious re-injury if a child experiences another brain injury/concussion before fully recovering. While there is much focus on concussions that occur during athletic activities, it is important to note that concussions can occur during a fall, car accident, assault or other situations as well.
Concussion signs and symptoms
According to a Safe Kids Worldwide report, almost half of youth sports-related concussions occur in children ages 12 to 15 years old. Below is an overview of the signs and symptoms of a concussion/brain injury. These symptoms may be visible right after the injury or in the weeks, months and even years that follow. Bookmark this blog post for quick reference.
- Loss of consciousness
- Trouble with balance and coordination
- Numbness/tingling anywhere on body
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Visual problems (seeing spots, vision loss, etc.)
- Change in school performance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering
- Confusion about recent events
- Feeling foggy
- Feeling dazed/stunned
- Repeating questions
- Slow response time (child is slow to respond to instructions or questions; child is slow to physically react, etc.)
- Irritability (child is easily angered/upset by things that may not have bothered them prior to injury)
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Lack of impulse control
- Fatigue (child is extremely tired)
- Sleeping more than usual
- Changes in sleep patterns (trouble falling or staying asleep)
If you believe your child has a brain injury or concussion, call your child’s doctor immediately and stop physical activities until your child has been cleared to return to play by a medical professional.
Note: Loss of consciousness, slurred words, headache, vomiting, trouble walking, blurred vision, confusion (child not making sense) and unresponsiveness (unable to wake child) are signs that a child needs immediate emergency care.
Concussion signs in infants and toddlers
The signs and symptoms of a concussion may differ slightly for younger age children. In infants and toddlers, you may notice:
- Changes in play or loss of interest in favorite activities
- Excessive crying (more than usual/child can’t be consoled)
- Listlessness (child feels floppy in your arms)
- Loss of new skills such as walking or toilet training
- Refusal to eat or nurse
- A soft spot or swelling on the scalp
Concussion care programs
Specialists in traumatic brain injury provide care and follow-up for children who have been diagnosed with a concussion. These care programs include services that help with managing neurological (brain) symptoms and addressing school and social issues.
Rest from physical and mental activity is often part of treatment. In regard to sports participation, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health experts agree that young athletes should not compete or practice until a health care professional experienced in concussion evaluations says they’re symptom-free. States now have “return-to-play” laws, which usually require removing student-athletes with suspected concussions from play and getting permission from a health care professional to return to play.
Local concussion care: CHoR’s Concussion/Brain Injury Clinic
CHoR offers the only comprehensive concussion/brain injury program in Central Virginia, providing everything from medical care to physical therapy and educational consultations. CHoR’s care team includes brain injury board certified physicians and certified consultants for ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). ImPACT is the most widely used and scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system for assessing the injury, tracking recovery and affirming a safe return to play.
Based on research, Safe Kids Worldwide recommends four “game changers” parents, young athletes and coaches can do to avoid preventable sports injuries including concussions. They are:
- Get educated about preventing serious sports-related injuries and share that knowledge with parents, athletes, coaches and officials.
- Learn skills to prevent injuries while playing sports.
- Encourage athletes to speak up about injuries.
- Support coaches and officials in making decisions to prevent serious injuries.
What to do after a hit to the head
- Player immediately stops playing or practicing.
- Player should get checked out by a doctor before returning to practice or play.
References: Safe Kids, CDC