By: Erin O'Tool, MD
With the Super Bowl right around the corner, concussion prevention will likely be a hot topic of conversation thanks to the NFL’s health protocols aimed to mitigate damage caused by head injuries. But pro football players aren’t the only people who need to know what to look for when it comes to concussions—so do parents, especially during the winter when sports like skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating lead to higher incident rates.
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, even if your child doesn’t lose consciousness. It’s also important to know that it’s possible to sustain a concussion without a direct blow to the head.
Concussions, especially with kids, when left untreated can cause long-term problems. 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 in Kids
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 child’s head is serious or not? It’s always best to call your doctor within two to three days of sustaining a head injury. 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 responsiveness than usual.
Common Concussion Symptoms
- Balance problems
- Sensitivity to light/noise
- Feeling mentally foggy
- Feeling slowed down
- Difficulty remembering
- Difficulty concentrating
- More emotional
- 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. Make sure your child eats three to four small meals a day and stays 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.”
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.