Written by Dr. Paul Gazoni
The past few years has brought a surge in safety efforts to help prevent and reduce concussions in youth sports. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury or TBI caused by a bump, jolt or blow to the head or body. It should be taken seriously, even if your child does not lose consciousness. If your child has experienced a bump or blow to the head during a game or practice, look for any of the following signs and symptoms of a concussion:
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Is confused about assignment or position
- Forgets an instruction
- Is unsure of game, score or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows mood, behavior or personality changes
What should you do? If you think your child has a concussion, he/she should not return to play on the day of the injury and not until a health care professional says it is OK to return to play after being symptom-free for a period of time. As a parent or coach, recording the following information can help the health care professional assess the severity of the injury.
- What was the cause of the injury?
- How hard was the hit or blow to the head or body?
- Any loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out) and if so, for how long?
- Any memory loss immediately following the injury?
- Any seizures immediately following the injury?
- Number of previous concussions?
Signs of concussion generally appear soon after the injury, but the full effect may not be noticed at first. Repeatedly check for signs of concussion and seek emergency treatment if your child shows any danger signs such as:
- A headache that gets worse
- Convulsions or seizures
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Weakness, numbness in arms or legs
- Loss of consciousness
- Trouble recognizing people or places
Most people recover and fully and quickly from a concussion, but children who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing—can increase their risk of having a repeat concussion and slow their recovery. Remember: It’s better to miss one game than the whole season! Tips to help get better:
- Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day.
- Avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., sports, working out) or require a lot of concentration (e.g., sustained computer use, video games).
- Ask your health care provider when your child can safely return to physical activity.
Resources The CDC’s Heads Up initiative has tools and resources for coaches, players and parents involved in youth sports on preventing, recognizing and responding to a concussion. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html http://www.headsupparents.org/