“Bellringer” “Dinger” “K.O.” No matter what you call it, concussions should be taken seriously. I receive a lot of questions about concussions from parents and kids. What is a concussion? What should you do if you think you or your child has one? And, how can it be prevented? The good news is that most of the time, concussions cause symptoms that go away with time. However, it is possible for a concussion to cause long term changes. We must be especially careful then in kids and teens whose brains are still developing.
What is a concussion?
- A concussion is an injury to the brain, usually caused by a blow to the head, neck, or body
- After the blow, you can notice changes like confusion, drowsiness, and headache. These can start right after the blow or a few hours afterwards
- During a concussion, you may even lose consciousness (“black out”) but this doesn’t always happen
- The symptoms go away gradually over minutes to days to weeks
- Even though the symptoms seem severe, there are no abnormalities that can be seen on imaging like CAT scans or MRI
What should I do if I think I (or my child) may have a concussion?
- Rest – The athlete should be removed from play (placed on the bench) immediately
- Evaluation – The athlete should be evaluated by the team doctor or trainer; if there is no medical professional available on the field, the athlete should be seen in the doctor’s office or emergency room
- Imaging – In special cases your doctor may recommend a CAT scan or MRI.
How do you treat a concussion?
- Rest your brain – Depending on how bad the concussion is, you may need to rest your brain: this means decreasing school activities, standardized testing, video game playing, and watching TV.
- Rest your body – You should do no physical activity (including playing the sport where the injury occurred). This includes weight training, running, biking, skateboarding! You should rest until you have absolutely no symptoms.
- Medications – Talk to your doctor before taking any medications.
When can I (or my child) play sports again?
- Everyone is different and will recover at different speeds
- Every athlete should sit out for the rest of the game when a concussion occurs
- In general, the young athlete will need 7-10 days before they can return to play
- Before playing again, you should be completely symptom free. You should also receive medical clearance before returning to play.
- If you (or your child) have had multiple concussions or has symptoms that last for more than 3 months, he/she should retire from contact sports
How can I prevent a concussion?
- Always wearing helmets and head gear (this includes while riding a bike or skateboarding) during contact sports
- Educate yourself and your team about concussions and ways to prevent injuries during play – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has free toolkits you can find online with more education material for coaches, athletes, and parents
You should call your doctor immediately (or head to the Emergency Room) if you have the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness (blacking out) for more than 30 seconds
- Severe headache
- Repeated vomiting (throwing up)
- Difficulty staying awake or forming sentences
- Neck pain
- Worsening of symptoms
Where can I find more information?