A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head. Three million concussions are reported each year. They often happen to children when playing sports. Repeated or multiple concussions can result in lasting or permanent brain damage. So it's important to know the signs and try to prevent them from happening in the first place.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CONCUSSION?
A concussion occurs when the brain hits the sides of the skull. The skull exists as an outer barrier to make sure your brain is protected. However, it's too hard to safely come in contact with the soft brain. To keep the brain safe, it is surrounded by a substance called cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a cushion.
If a blow to the head hits hard enough, the brain will slide right past the cerebrospinal fluid and bang into the skull, causing a concussion. In serious cases, the brain can actually hit the skull hard enough to bleed.
SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE A CONCUSSION
Any time your child suffers an injury to the head, they should always have a medical examination as soon as possible. Concussions often occur without loss of consciousness, so don't assume your child is fine, because they were not knocked out.
Your pediatrician will check for signs of a concussion, or other serious trauma that may need immediate care. She will likely tell you to watch your child carefully for signs of a concussion, as they don't always present themselves right away. It may be hours, or even days, until it is evident that a concussion has occurred, so watch for the signs.
After a blow to the head, watch for confusion, problems with memory or concentration, or trouble sleeping. A child who has had a concussion may complain of headaches, dizziness, numbness, or tingling. They may feel nauseous and extra sensitive to light or noise. A concussion can also cause irritability, tiredness during the times your child is normally awake, or overall grogginess. Blurry, double vision, or problems with balance, even walking following a head injury, may indicate that your child has probably had a concussion.
If you notice any of these signs within several days after your child's head injury, call your provider and seek medical care right away.
If your child is preverbal or suffers from an impairment that affects communication, you will want to pay extra close attention to their behaviors. If they cannot tell you how they feel, it is up to you to decipher whether they may have symptoms. As a rule, call your pediatrician if you notice that your child is acting differently than normal.
FOLLOW UP TREATMENT FOR CHILDHOOD CONCUSSION
Recovery time is required after suffering a concussion. Because the brain is injured, lots of rest, both physical and mental, is essential. A child who has suffered a concussion needs to get extra rest and sleep, and should not partake in physically demanding activities for a while.
Abstaining from physical activities, following a concussion, is also important because children are at an increased risk of suffering another concussion while they are recovering from an initial one. As mentioned, repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain damage, so it is wise to take extreme measures to make sure this does not happen.
Mental rest is required as well. Children should abstain from cognitively demanding tasks following a concussion. This means that you need to contact your child's teacher to let them know about this. Schools are required to make accommodations during the recovery time.
Beware of screen time as your child recovers. It may seem like a great way to keep them occupied during a period of extra rest, but watching screens or playing video games is a bit too stimulating mentally. Therefore, these activities should be limited or suspended for a time.
SPORTS AND CONCUSSIONS
Concussions often happen while kids play sports. Football, hockey, rugby, soccer and other sports, with the highest incidences of concussions, are more susceptible to these injuries. Contact sports or sports with a ball, put kids at risk. Parents have to decide for themselves whether the benefits of a particular sport outweigh the risk. But after one or two concussions, the risk for lasting or permanent effects rises, so it may be time to quit these activities.