Concussions – How to recognize the signs and symptoms in your child

With spring upon us, more and more children are starting to play outside again, whether it be in organized sports or as simple as riding their bikes around the block. With increased activity, however, comes increased risk of injuries, including falls and blows to the body, including the head. If your child ends up having a direct trauma to their head, whether their head hits an object or a moving object hits their head, it may be possible that they have just experienced a concussion.

What is a child concussion?

A child concussion is when the head hits an object or a moving object hits their head and causes the brain to hit the hard, bony part surrounding the head, also known as the skull. Our brains are naturally surrounded by fluid which protects it from coming into any type of contact with our skull, thus preventing injury to our brains. The brain is made up of soft tissue, so when a traumatic force pushes the brain through the fluid cushioning
and bangs it into the skull, the brain becomes damaged, just like if a baseball player got hit in the thick muscular portion of their leg during a pitch. However, a concussion is potentially a more serious condition because the brain
controls how the whole body works and functions. The amount of damage done to the brain depends upon the force to the head. Frequent causes of concussions include playground injuries, falls from a bike/running/playing, and direct contact from a high intensity impact sports, including but not limited to football, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball,boxing, and skiing/snowboarding.

When most people think of concussions they assume that it also involves losing consciousness, or passing out. However, although sometimes this may happen, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is,
although there are many classic signs of a concussion, they are often not well recognized. The worst possible thing your child can do if they experience a concussion is return to their sport/activity too soon and risk the possibility
of another brain injury which could lead to severe brain swelling and long-term

So how can you tell if your child has recently experienced a

Well, the first thing you would have to investigate is if your child hit their head or an object stuck them in the head. Following this, your child may feel like they are lightheaded, dizzy, blurred vision and/or “seeing spots”, and are usually accompanied with headaches. They may experience a sensation of nausea and vomiting as well. Another group of signs of concussions are difficulty concentrating, thinking, and making decisions. For example, you
may ask your child how school was today and they may respond saying they couldn’t pay attention or do work/play like they normally do and that their head hurts. It is also important to look at your child’s facial expressions when asking these questions, as they may appear as if they are concentrating or thinking harder than normal.  They may become irritable or anxious for no apparent reason. They may feel more tired than normal and be sensitive to light, so check if your child is lying around in their rooms or throughout the house more than normal.  Your child’s balance and coordination may be affected as well, even with the littlest things such as standing up from a chair or trying to grab an object off the table.

I suspect my child may have a concussion, what do I do now?
Monitor your child immediately. Check your child to see if your child has lost consciousness from the time of the accident and at least every half hour since then. Go see your primary doctor as soon as you can set up an appointment. The doctor will look at your child’s ability to think, answer questions, problem solve, as well as perform special tests to determine the extent of the injury. He will also test your child’s coordination, balance, and recommend further testing and treatment depending on the severity of the concussion.

Depending on the severity, your child may have symptoms from days to weeks. Smaller concussions may last only a couple hours to a day. More moderate level concussions may last from a week to 2-3 weeks. More severe
concussions may cause seizures, increased levels of confusion, cannot be easily awakened from sleep, and unconsciousness and require hospitalization.

Treating mild to moderate concussions are simple: REST, both physically and mentally. Just like other tissue injuries, the brain needs time to heal. It is important your child take some days off from school, sports, and any physically demanding activities they may participate in. Once your children’s symptoms start to subside should start acting and feeling like they were before the injury.  However, even though your child may be feeling better it is important to get them medically cleared before resuming physically demanding activities, such as sports, playground playing, riding their bikes, etc. Children who participate in higher level sports may be returned gradually into activity as to make sure the brain is fully healed before returning fully.

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Education of prevention of concussions is also extremely important!! I don’t care how “uncool” a helmet may be while riding a bike or skateboarding, it may save their life and prevent traumatic brain injuries such
as concussions! Also, helmets should be mandatory during high impact sporting events, including hockey, football, and baseball.

Concussions can potentially be extremely dangerous injuries that can happen unexpectedly, so it is important to recognize your child’s everyday natural behaviors to see if they at all deviate after a head injury. This is a great tool in determining whether or not your child may potentially have a concussion after a head injury. If you have any feeling, and I mean ANY little feeling, your child is acting differently after hitting their head, seek medical assistance IMMEDIATELY to prevent any future problems that could possibly occur.

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