What is a concussion?

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that causes damage to the brain resulting in a variety of symptoms.  The most common causes of concussion include sports, car accidents or falls.  The two most dangerous sports include football and girls' soccer.  Concussions can cause serious injury, especially if a second injury occurs before your child's brain has healed completely.  Having too many concussions will cause long-term brain damage that can lead to serious disease in the future.

What to look for?

These symptoms can occur minutes to hours after an injury:

  • Loss of consciousness - seen in less than 10% of injuries
  • Memory loss - forgetting what caused their injury or what happened just prior or after their injury
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or trouble with balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Acting strange - cranky, out of sorts

These symptoms can occur hours to days after an injury:

  • Trouble walking or talking
  • Memory problems or problems paying attention
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Vision changes
  • Sensitivity to noise or light.

What to do if you think your child suffered a concussion?

Make an appointment as soon as possible if your child has an injury involving their head or starts to display some of the symptoms listed above.  A thorough exam will assess memory and any physical damage from the injury.  Imaging, such as CT or MRI scan, may be required if your doctor feels that the injury is severe.

How do you treat a concussion?

The most important thing to do immediately after receiving a concussion is to be removed from ALL activities.  Remember "when in doubt, sit them out!"  To help the recovery process, you need to rest your brain and body.

This includes no physical activity, plenty of sleep and complete brain rest (no reading, no watching TV, no video games, no school work).  A pain-relieving medicine such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Advil® (ibuprofen) can be given if your child has a headache.

When can your child return to normal activities?

Once your child becomes symptom free without any medication it is okay to begin slowly re-introducing daily activities. Introduce activities over 5 days; if your child remains symptom-free the entire time, they can return to normal activity on the 6th day.

How to prevent a concussion?

Wear protective gear - bicycle helmet, sports gear, and always remember to wear a seat belt in the car.

Information gathered from the American Academy of Pediatrics, UpToDate and the American Academy of Neurology