Summer break is finally here which means kids are spending more time outdoors, riding their bikes and playing with friends. It is also a time for sports camps and summer practices. While it’s great for kids to get out and play, it also opens the door to the risk of concussions.
Concussions are temporary disruptions of brain function that can occur with any head injury, often without a loss of consciousness. They are caused by the brain hitting the skull wall, tearing blood vessels and injuring nerves inside of the brain during a head injury. We typically think of athletes when the word “concussion” comes to mind, but most concussions occur off the court or field, and in car, bicycle and rollerblading accidents, or through minor falls.
Symptoms of a concussion may vary by severity and should be treated on a case-by-case basis. These signs and symptoms may include headache or a feeling of pressure in the head; temporary loss of consciousness; confusion; amnesia surrounding the time of the injury; dizziness or “seeing stars”; ringing in the ears; and nausea and/or vomiting. A child who has experienced a head injury should be monitored closely for signs of a concussion, even if he or she says they feel OK.
Symptoms of a concussion don’t always show up right away – they may develop within 24 – 72 hours after injury. Younger children usually have the same physical symptoms of older kids and adults, but may also display cognitive and emotional symptoms such as irritability and frustration. Sleep-related issues following a concussion are more common in teens.
Not all concussions require hospitalization. After consulting your child’s physician, at-home treatments may be advised. These include monitoring your child for the first 24 – 72 hours and ensuring that your child is resting, both physically and mentally. Physical rest is just that – taking a break from sports and physical activities until the child is completely healed. Mental rest includes avoiding cognitive (thinking) activities that could potentially worsen symptoms. Using a computer, cell phone or other electronic device; doing school work; reading and watching TV or playing video games should be avoided.
Kids who get concussions usually recover within a few weeks without experiencing long term health problems. It is important that your child does not rush back into sports and physical activity following a concussion. Allowing your child to participate in these activities before they are completely healed puts them at risk for “second-impact syndrome,” which can happen as a result of a second head injury. Although it is extremely rare, second-impact syndrome can cause lasting brain damage and even death.
To prevent concussions, all kids should wear proper fitting, headgear and safety equipment when playing contact sports or biking, rollerblading, skateboard, skiing or snowboarding. Childproofing your home is recommended for parents of infants and toddlers, and installing proper car seats and booster seats, as well as ensuring your child wears their seat belt may help prevent injuries in the event of a car accident.
If you believe your child may have suffered a concussion, please schedule an appointment with their pediatrician or family physician. If your child does not have a pediatrician or family physician, please call 317.880.3838.
Dr. James Blackwell
Eskenazi Health West 38th Street