Children are typically involved in a myriad of activities, including sports; thus the likelihood of injury is ever present. Even a slight bump to the head can become a situation in which the child will need emergency medical treatment. Generally, a first time minor concussion will have little long term consequences. However, as anyone knows from following the NFL, boxing, or other professional sports, it is the secondary concussion that can have devastating and permanent consequences.
Concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury, resulting from a blow, jolt or bump to the head or body. The brain moves quickly back and forth in this situation, possibly causing bruising, nerve damage and even blood clots. Most concussions do not result in a lack of consciousness, which may further delay treatment. Prompt recognition of concussion and quick response to stabilize the child can prevent further injury and even death.
Because there are usually no outward signs of concussion, they are difficult to identify. Even doctors have difficulty diagnosing them, because brain scanning equipment does not specifically identify concussions. Yet, children can report symptoms that are helpful in determining if a concussion exists. Likewise, parents, coaches or other observers can help recognize the signs of concussion.
The warning signs of concussion usually fall within four categories: thinking/remembering, physical, emotional/mood and sleep disturbance.
The thinking/remembering category includes:
- confusion or concentration problems
- difficulty recalling events before or after the injury
- responding slowly to questions
- being confused or unsure of current activities
The physical category consists of:
- pressure in the head or headache
- dizziness or balance problems
- nausea or vomiting
- sensitivity to light and/or noise
- lack of energy
The emotional/mood category involves:
- an increase in emotion
- anxiety or nervousness
The sleep disturbance category includes:
- sleeping less or more than usual
- trouble falling asleep
You should seek immediate medical attention if your child presents any of these signs. It is important to note that some of these symptoms may not appear immediately after the child suffers the injury. Some symptoms may develop after several days, weeks or even months.
Because children are children and many will not let anything, even brain injury, get in the way of their fun, parents, teachers and coaches to educate themselves on the signs of concussion. We owe it to our children to err on the side of caution no matter how badly they want to get back on the field.
The CDC has plenty of materials for just this purpose. To learn more about youth and concussions, visit the CDC website where you find much of the information you need.