concussion? you probably have THESE questions
By: Dr. Lora Scott, co-director sports medicine
There are currently some pretty scary things in the news about young athletes getting concussions, and some kids have even died from their head injuries.
I usually get a lot of questions from parents when I tell them that their child has a concussion. Many of them are confused, scared and sometimes even angry. Check out the top six questions I get from parents about concussions and how I answer them.
- “Does my child REALLY have a concussion?” Anyone who takes a hit to the head which causes symptoms like a headache, confusion or dizziness should stop sports immediately and be evaluated for a concussion. You may hear doctors use many different words for concussion. These include head injury, traumatic brain injury or closed head injury. If you hear this, it is still a concussion. CT and MRI scans are normal unless there are additional injuries, like a fracture.
- “How long will this last?” Concussion symptoms can last from a few minutes to several weeks. The first 48 hours after a concussion are critical to recovery. The more the brain can rest completely (avoid video games, TV, school, homework, etc), the higher the chance of a faster recovery. Around 15 percent of people have symptoms beyond three weeks.
- “This is his senior year homecoming football game (or insert other important game here). Can’t he just play a little tonight?” When a concussion is present, the brain is at higher risk of getting another injury. Sometimes even a mild injury can cause swelling and death if the first one didn’t heal. This is why it is very important to get a doctor’s clearance before returning to sports or other activities (like riding a bike) after a concussion. Because of the risk of a second injury, NO ONE should return to sports on the same day as their head injury. NO ONE. My favorite NFL team lost their best player to a concussion during the play-offs last year. They lost the game. If he can’t go back, your child shouldn’t either. No game is as important as your child’s brain.
- “Should children be allowed to play contact sports?” The Mannings didn’t play tackle football until 7th grade. Tom Brady didn’t play until 9th grade. You can learn plenty of football skills without the increased risk of head injury at a young age. I’m NOT saying tackle football in youth sports is a bad thing. I AM saying that it isn’t required to reach the elite level.
- “What else can be done to protect kids?” There are many products out there which claim to reduce concussions. The truth is that a concussion comes from your brain moving inside your skull. When someone is hit hard enough, nothing prevents that movement. However, sports-specific equipment is helpful and necessary for preventing other injuries, such as skull fractures, nasal fractures, broken teeth, eye injuries and lacerations.
- “What is a baseline concussion test?” A baseline concussion test measures how a brain is working before a head injury. There are many forms, including computer, verbal, or pencil and paper. They evaluate things like reaction time and memory. While symptomatic from a concussion, the results are temporarily affected. A physician trained in concussion management can compare scores after a concussion to the baseline result and see when brain function returns to normal. Although this is not required for concussion management, it can be helpful for more severe cases which are slow to get better. Dayton Children’s offers free baseline testing for athletes age 10 and above.
Please keep in mind that some of this information we have only learned in the last 3-5 years and there is new research about concussions on an almost daily basis! What applies this year might not apply next year as we are constantly learning so much more in this field. At Dayton Children’s, we keep up with the latest recommendations so that your child can be safe AND have fun.