As football season descends rapidly upon us, worries about concussions and what exactly should occur following one come to the forefront. Concussions are complex because they can range from mild to severe, with some children and teens recovering quickly, while in others symptoms seem to linger on. Understanding the various aspects of a concussion and recovery can help parents better prepare for if and when it happens to their child.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of mild brain injury (mTBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head. Typical sources of concussion are sports injuries during activities such as football or lacrosse. Even a helmet and protective gear cannot always protect against a concussion. It is important to remember that a person does not need to lose consciousness in order to be diagnosed with a mTBI. Though the majority of concussions are mild, the spectrum of injury is wide and some children will require extended hospitalizations and aftercare.
Concussions have a variety of symptoms that cover many domains of human functions.
Physical Symptoms include:
*Noise or light sensitivity
Cognitive Symptoms include:
*Difficulty with attention and concentration
*Slowed processing speed
*Trouble with multitasking
Behavioral/Emotional Symptoms include:
*Sad or anxious
Treatment and Plan
So what should a parent do that suspects that their child has suffered a concussion? The first step is to try and understand the level of injury suffered. Monitoring your child’s behavior, keeping a record of their headache pattern and asking them how they feel both physically and mentally can do this. Remember that the majority of cases will resolve within two to three weeks. During initial recovery it is important to keep your child from playing contact sports and to make sure they are getting plenty of sleep.
The next step in supporting a concussed child is to make contact with their school to ensure that teachers know that the child is injured and are willing to allow for extra time on assignments, breaks in the day as needed, and alternative P.E. requirements. If the school requires a formal list of accommodations, you may need to visit your neurologist or neuropsychologist and request documentation to support a formal education plan such as a 504 plan.
If you child’s concussion related symptoms have not resolved within two months it is important to seek out the next level of care. Any time a child has multiple concussions consultation with a specialist is doubly important. A pediatric neurologist, usually in conjunction with a pediatric neuropsychologist, can help determine the level of injury and create a treatment plan to best support your child.
It is important to remember that most children successfully recover from concussions. The key is to monitor your child and talk to them about their symptoms so that you seek the appropriate level of care.