Concussion Safety: A Parent’s Guide to Managing a Head Injury

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Published on August 29, 2017

Concussion Safety: A Parent’s Guide to Managing a Head Injury

By: Erin O'Tool, MD

The fall sports season is officially underway, and with that comes fear of an injury. If your child participates in football, soccer, lacrosse or cheerleading, you’re probably especially worried about the possibility of a serious head injury, like a concussion.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, typically caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. All concussions are significant. Your child doesn’t need to lose consciousness to suffer from a concussion, and they can sustain a concussion without a direct blow to the head.

"Concussions left untreated can cause long-term problems,” said Erin O’Tool, MD, who leads the Concussion Care Network for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, part of Ascension. "It is common for a concussed athlete to have one or many concussion symptoms, some that may evolve and emerge 24 to 72 hours after the injury occurs."

Diagnosing a Concussion

Sometimes it’s easy to determine if a person has just experienced a concussion. They might briefly lose consciousness or have no recollection of what just happened to them. Other times they might appear fine and show symptoms hours later.

How do you know if that bump on your head is serious or not? It’s always best to call your doctor within 2-3 days of sustaining a head injury; however, be sure to seek emergency medical attention if you or a loved one experiences: Headaches that worsen, seizures, unusual behavior problems, feeling very drowsy or can’t be awakened, repeated vomiting, slurred speech, significant irritability, inability to recognize people or places, increasing confusion, weakness or numbness in arms or legs, or less responsive than usual.

Common Signs and Symptoms

PHYSICAL

  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Numbness

EMOTIONAL

  • Feeling mentally foggy
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty concentrating

COGNITIVE (THINKING)

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • More emotional
  • Nervousness

SLEEP RELATED

  • Drowsiness
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

Keys to Recovery

Time and rest will help the brain heal after a concussion. Adequate sleep is essential to the brain’s recovery. Nutrition also directly affects the time it takes the brain to heal. Eat three to four small meals a day and stay hydrated by drinking fluids with and between meals.

Follow these other recommendations:

  • Reduce or eliminate “screen time,” such as cell phone, TV, iPad, computers or texting
  • Do not participate in sports, gym class or other recreational activities
  • Avoid situations with loud noises, bright lights and movement, such as the shopping mall, cafeteria, sporting event, etc.
  • If an activity makes symptoms worse, stop. Do not “push through.”

More Information

Through our Concussion Care Network, medical experts of Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital and Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group can treat head injuries and concussions in both children and adults. Request an appointment today.