What to look for, and what to do
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or even by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move forcefully and stop abruptly. This sudden movement can cause the brain to be damaged, creating chemical changes in the brain and possibly stretching and damaging the brain cells.
How do kids get a concussion?
A child can get a concussion anytime there is forceful contact with their head. Sports related concussions are happening more frequently. Especially for kids participating in football, hockey, soccer and lacrosse. A concussion for younger children is usually caused by things like, car or bike accidents, fights or falling and hitting their head. Having a concussion can be especially risky for young kids that cannot tell you exactly how they are feeling. Be sure they are monitored closely.
Symptoms of a concussion
How can you tell if someone has gotten a concussion? Brain injuries are difficult to recognize and might not show up in a neurological test. In most cases, the diagnosis of a concussion is based on the incident that took place and in identifying specific symptoms. Someone who has a concussion may be unable to remember what happened to them immediately before or after their injury. Paramedics typically will ask the person if they know where they are, what day it is and their name if they are concerned that a concussion has taken place. There are several symptoms you should be on the lookout for if you think your child may have a concussion. They are:
- Prolonged headache or pressure in the head
- Vision problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of balance
- Memory loss
- Ears ringing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Loss of smell or taste
- Feeling sluggish, groggy or dazed
- Can’t pay attention
- Trouble sleeping
- Slow to respond/understand others
- Mood changes
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in personality
If you notice these symptoms in your child after there has been a blow to the head, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Most of the time concussions are mild and there will be a complete recovery, but there are still serious risks for children. Their treatment at home should include:
- Physical rest: They should be taking it easy for a few days at least. Ease them back into participating in their activities. Be sure to monitor them so you will know if their symptoms get any worse.
- Mental rest: They should avoid participating in any activities that require much thinking. This would include doing things such as: using a computer or phone, homework, reading, listening to loud music, watching TV and playing video games.
- Hydration: Be sure they are staying hydrated by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated liquids.
- Sleep: It is important to get plenty of sleep. You might want to schedule regular sleep times, be sure the room is dark and quiet, and turn off all electronics.
They should rest from both physical and mental activities for a couple days and gradually work their way back into full activity as their progress will allow. For a mild concussion, the doctor will probably advise watching the child closely for the first 2-3 days after the incident. But you will likely not need to wake them up and interrupt their sleep to check on their symptoms.
Concussions in athletes
If your child sustains a concussion while playing a sport, they should be held out of participating until they have been checked and cleared by a doctor (for the most part, this applies to teenagers). It is recommended that they wait until all of the symptoms have cleared up and they are no longer needing any medication….including pain killers. Be sure that their coach knows about the situation. Coming back to play too soon puts the child at greater risk to sustain another head injury. This can lead to a serious or life threatening injury.
Post-Concussion Syndrome is something else to keep your eye on. This is when there are lingering symptoms following a concussion. It can show up anywhere from days to weeks after the head injury. The signs to look for include dizziness, headaches and fatigue.
At Just 4 Kids, we offer Baseline Pre-Concussion Testing. This involves the use of a computer program to test a child’s normal brain function. The tests will document areas such as memory, attention and thinking speed. Then if there is a head injury in the future, we can compare testing after the injury with the baseline results to see how your child is recovering.