the top 6 questions parents ask about concussions
Head injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. From the football field to roughhousing on the couch, kids can and will bump their heads. When your child has a concussion it can be scary and confusing. And as a parent, you’re going to have a lot of questions about how to care for your child and help them recover.
Here are the most common questions we see in Dayton Children’s sports medicine division when it comes to concussions:
“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 terms for concussion. These include head injury, traumatic brain injury or closed head injury. If you hear this, it is still a concussion.
“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 better chance of a faster recovery. Around 15 percent of people will continue to 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. No game is as important as your child’s brain.
“Should children be allowed to play contact sports?” Brett Favre recently came out to discourage parents from letting their kids play tackle football until the age of 14. The Manning brothers didn’t play tackle football until 7th grade. And, 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, like a helmet, 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?” While some sports have a higher risk for concussions, it's important that all athletes get a baseline test. Each child is unique, therefore having a baseline for your child is helpful in managing a concussion, should one occur.
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.
At Dayton Children’s, we use a concussion testing system called ImPACT Pediatric® and ImPACT to help measure the cognitive function of child and teen athletes after suspected concussions or traumatic brain injuries. ImPACT Pediatric® concussion testing allows us to test patients as young as five! We use ImPACT for our older athletes.
Contact Dayton Children’s sports medicine team for more information about FREE baseline testing by calling 937-641-3883.
Please keep in mind that some of this information we have only learned in the last few 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.
does your child need to see a specialist?
A child's brain is still developing, so a head injury can be more serious than you think. The Dayton Children's concussion management pediatric-trained team is experienced in treating children and teenagers with mild to severe head injuries.
Our team of highly experienced pediatric sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, rehabilitation specialists, neurologists, and neurosurgeons provide the very best care to patients who have sustained a head injury during activity.