According to the CDC, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to move around inside the skull, which can change how the brain functions. Prevention of concussions in youth is especially important because these changes to the brain’s function can affect how a child’s brain develops.
Preventing a Concussion
Ways to help prevent concussions can include ensuring that car seats are both the appropriate size and properly installed, using gates around stairs to prevent falls, using playgrounds with soft material under them, and making sure your child wears a helmet. It is important to remember, however, that helmets are not designed to prevent concussions and there is no “concussion-proof” helmet.
Concussion Symptoms & Signs to Watch For
In the event that your child does experience a blow to the head or a jolt to the body, there are some important signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for. Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, nausea or vomiting, balance problems, dizziness, double or blurred vision, feeling hazy or sluggish, confusion, and concentration or memory problems. It is important to remember that even feeling “just not right” can be a symptom of a concussion. Parents should continue to monitor for signs of a concussion for several days after the injury.
There are also some “danger signs” that children should be closely monitored for if they have a concussion. These signs include pupils of unequal size, inability to wake up, worsening headache that does not go away, slurred speech, weakness or numbness, convulsions or seizures, and loss of consciousness. In the event any of these symptoms are present, parents should call 911 right away or take their child to the nearest emergency room.
Treating Your Child's Concussion
Any child or teen with a possible concussion needs to be evaluated by a medical professional. If the injury occurs while playing sports, the child should be removed from play immediately and should remain out of play until they are cleared to return by a physician. Returning to play before the brain has completely healed could result in brain damage if repeat concussions are sustained. Rest is usually the best way for children to recover from a concussion, followed by light and moderate activity as the symptoms decrease. The child can usually return to regular activity once they can complete all of their regular activities without experiencing any symptoms.
It is important for parents to remember to also follow up with their child’s doctor throughout the healing process to get medical clearance.