3 concussion myths you probably believe
Should kids with concussions really avoid screen time? We're busting this and other myths!
You may have seen some recent information in the press about concussion treatment changes, and relaxing on the recommendations for rest. The truth is, these recommendations have been in place for several years. Why is everyone talking about it now?
It’s because the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their concussion guidelines at the end of last year. Their last statement was written in 2009. Those of us who work in pediatric sports medicine adjust our treatments every time new research is published. As we slowly adjusted our treatments to keep up with the latest research, it became crystal clear that the policy statement available to general pediatricians needed a make-over. Current treatment recommendations were drifting further and further from the nearly decade-old policy statement.
What does this mean for managing concussions?
If you come to Dayton Children’s sports medicine for concussion treatment, it means nothing changed. We monitor new publications and treatment guidelines as they are released, and we make adjustments accordingly. The new AAP policy statement was written by a group of pediatric sports medicine physicians, to provide other pediatricians with a summary of how to manage concussions. The new recommendations were not a surprise to anyone in sports medicine, since we’ve already been following them (and wrote the statement). However, some of the changes may be new people who don’t deal with concussions every day.
So let’s do some myth-busting.
What are some common myths concussion patients hear which do not line up with the new AAP policy statement?
Myth: My concussed child should not have any screen time
Fact: A concussed child may do any sort of brain activity when they feel ok. Take a break whenever symptoms come back. Make sure any stimulating activity has an escape plan in place when symptoms return. Try to avoid schoolwork until cleared by the doctor, simply because the brain isn’t working normally and your child may be disappointed by his or her grades.
Myth: My concussed child may return to school when he or she feels better at home
Fact: A school return after concussion can be difficult for the child and for the school. It is important to see a physician familiar with concussion care to guide a gradual return to school, with respect to your child's school demands and concussion symptoms. The AAP also has a policy statement on how to return a child to school after a concussion. Many concussed patients need flexibility, to adjust school demands as their symptoms change throughout the day.
Myth: My concussed child is not allowed to exercise until cleared
Fact: Low risk, low intensity exercise can speed concussion recovery. For most kids, this may be as simple as a brisk 10-15 minute walk every day. Other children may not be ready. For example, if one of your child's primary symptoms is dizziness, then daily walks are not safe. Please keep in mind that Ohio State Law requires physician clearance before returning to sports.
The most common problem I see with concussions is that families tend to take an ‘all or nothing’ approach with brain activity and sports. Just because a child feels fine when he or she is bored in a dark room doesn’t mean they are ready for a full day of school or 2 hours of sports practice. There are a lot of things which happen in between. Returning to school and sports after a concussion is more like slowly turning up a dimmer switch, rather than turning all the lights on at once. The new AAP policy statement leaves more room for an individual approach and a gradual return to activities, with frequent adjustments as a child’s symptoms change
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Dayton Children’s uses a concussion testing system called Neurocognitive Sports Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) to help measure the cognitive function of child and teen athletes after suspected concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Concussion testing is best done when athletes establish a baseline using the CCAT's four simple tasks. Repeating the same tasks after injury identifies any cognitive changes from the baseline test performance. Concussion testing is just one of many tools our doctors use for athletes with concussions.