What Every Parent Should Know About Concussions

Dr. BavishiAs a parent, it is exciting to watch your young athlete from the side-lines, making a great catch or kicking a goal. Also, as a parent, safety is always something that is in the back of our minds. One injury I would like to address is a concussion. It has brought recent media attention due to famous athletes or movie stars sustaining an injury to the head. However, it can affect any athlete.

What is a concussion?
A concussion is any injury to the head that potentially affects the function of the brain. It is usually the result of a blow or jolt to the head. However, it is important to know that it can also be secondary to a blow to any part of the body that causes the brain in the head to move back and forth, as per definition from the CDC. It is important to be aware of this because an athlete can sustain a serious concussion without a blow to the head. For example, imagine a hit to the shoulder, causing your head to move back and forth like whip lash.

A CDC study found that among youth ages 5 to 18 years old, the sports and recreation activities that generated the greatest number of emergency department visits for Traumatic Brain Injury were popular activities such as bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities and soccer.

What are some signs of a concussion?
After a blow to the head, talk to your doctor if you have any of the following signs of concussion:

• Headache
• Vision disturbance
• Dizziness
• Loss of balance
• Confusion
• Memory loss (called amnesia)
• Ringing in the ears
• Difficulty concentrating
• Nausea
• Feeling foggy or groggy
• Sensitivity to light or noise

However, some athletes may just say that they “don’t feel right.” This could be a sign of a concussion as well. Remember, you do not need to have loss of consciousness in order to have a concussion. If an athlete has been suspected to have a concussion, they should be evaluated by a physician. Secondly, due to new rules and regulations, the athlete will not be able to play that day and will need medical clearance by a physician in order to return to play for future games.

Recovery and safe return to play:
It is crucial to allow enough healing and recovery time following a concussion to prevent further damage. Research suggests that the effects of repeated concussion are cumulative over time.

Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they do not return to contact sports too soon. Following a concussion, there is a period of change in brain function that may last anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days. During this time, the brain may be vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury. If the athlete sustains a second concussion during this time period, the risk of permanent brain injury increases.

I encourage you to visit the CDC Web site to understand more about concussions.

Meriter Pediatrics now offers ImPACT concussion management baseline testing. Think of it as a pre-season physical for the brain!

Dr. Viren Bavishi
Meriter Middleton Pediatrics

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