Symptoms and tips from Dayton Children’s
09-08-2010 (Dayton, OH) -
The American Academy of Pediatrics found concussion rates appeared to have more than doubled among students participating in common sports including basketball, soccer and football from 1997 to 2007 even as participation in those sports declined.
AAP said young children take longer to recover from brain injuries than adults and older adolescents. It called for a "more conservative approach" for allowing young athletes to return to competition. Children need to rest "physically and cognitively" until symptoms subside, which is usually a week or two.
“Concussions are more common than people might think,” says Laurence Kleiner, MD, pediatric neurosurgeon at Dayton Children’s. Concussions occur frequently among young athletes, especially those engaged in contact sports such as football, hockey, rugby, soccer and lacrosse. In addition to playing organized sports, active children are also at risk for concussions during recreational activities including skateboarding, biking and roller-skating.
“Researchers don't know if the reasons behind the increase are that team sports have become more competitive, or if it's because of an increase in reporting rates, or both,” says Dr. Kleiner.
From September 2009 to July 2010, Dayton Children’s Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center has seen 1,415 concussions. Football and basketball are the most common sports where these concussions occurred.
Although concussions previously were thought to be trivial brain injuries, recent scientific studies have demonstrated that even the most minor concussion can produce serious negative effects on an athlete’s concentration, memory, reaction time and emotions. The post-concussive syndrome has been well validated as a debilitating condition that can affect children, adolescents and young adults who have been multiply traumatized during the course of playing sports. Because many people only recognize loss of consciousness as a symptom for concussions, many concussions go dangerously unrecognized.
Brain tests (scans) can work to determine the severity of a concussion, but many times they do not show signs of concussions, so it is important to observe the child’s behavior after an injury.
Common symptoms of concussions include:
- Slowed reaction time
- Loss of consciousness
Dr. Kleiner suggests using a concussion grading scale to determine the severity of a concussion:
- Grade 1-Symptoms are noticeable for less than 15 minutes. Generally, return to play is not recommended until the next day.
- Grade 2-Symptoms are noticeable for longer than 15 minutes. Generally, clearance by a health care provider is recommended before return to play.
- Grade 3-Any loss of consciousness. Child needs immediate medical attention.
If you suspect your child has a concussion, seek medical attention and do not return to play until the child has been evaluated by a physician and released to play. Children with concussions should expect to sit out of practice and/or games at least a couple days because it takes the brain time to heal.
When a child has suffered from more than one concussion at any point in time, it is known as a repeat concussion. The effects on the brain are more serious than the effects of the first concussion. Longer time course of symptoms, chronic headaches, slower response rates and decreasing test scores also are effects of repeat concussions. Even with single Grade 1 concussions, problems frequently last for a week or even longer.
To appropriately manage repeat concussions within the same season, the child athlete should consider cessation of that sport for the rest of the season, Dr. Kleiner says.
Of course, prevention is the best medicine to avoid repeat concussions, Dr. Kleiner adds. Wearing the proper protective equipment during activities is important. Highly effective helmets are even available for soccer players (Full Ninety). Equally important are staying in shape, staying hydrated and following the rules of play.
Talk to your child’s doctor if you suspect your child has suffered a concussion. If you are a coach or trainer, contact the neurosurgery department at Dayton Children’s about information and speakers on concussions at 937-641-3461 or log on to www.childrensdayton.org.
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