Unlike a broken leg, a concussion, if not properly managed can lead to long-term symptoms, and in rare instances, even death.
To ensure youth athletes are protected, if a concussion is suspected, remove the player from the practice or game. Make sure a medical professional - trained in the diagnosis and management of concussion - gives them the OK to return to play.
The single best defense is education. Parents, coaches, athletes, officials, school administrators, school nurses and teachers should all know how to recognize a concussion and have an action plan in place.
A concussion can be caused by a blow to the head, a jolt to the body, or any sudden force that results in a rapid acceleration/deceleration of the brain inside the skull. Made up of a soft tofu-like substance, the impact of the brain against the rigid inside walls of the skull can cause a change in neurological function and a host of other symptoms depending on which part of the brain was injured.
The terms "ding" or "bell rung" minimize concussions. While most do heal within a few weeks, an athlete who returns to play before a concussion has completely resolved risks re-injuring an already injured brain, which can have catastrophic consequences.
Although rare, adolescents seem most vulnerable to rapid brain swelling known as second impact syndrome which can be fatal. Additionally, multiple concussions suffered prior to complete resolution of a previous injury can result in prolonged symptoms lasting weeks, months, or years. Know how to minimize the risk of a complicated recovery if you suspect a concussion.
There are a number of signs/symptoms you need to look for if you suspect your child may have a concussion. Although headache is commonly reported, not all athletes who suffer concussions will experience the same set of symptoms.
In some cases they may not be easily detected for hours or days after the injury. However, look for clues immediately and make sure athletes are re-evaluated every few minutes over several hours. At home, parents should watch for the following symptoms as well as complaints that lights are too bright, noises are too loud, or your child has difficulty concentrating while watching TV or playing video games. Any of the following are indicative of concussion:
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about assignment or position
Forgets an instruction
Is unsure of game, score or opponent
Answers questions slowly
Loses consciousness (even briefly)
Shows mood, behavior or personality changes
Can't recall events prior to hit or fall
Can't recall events after hit or fall
Headache or "pressure" in head
Nausea or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or blurry vision
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
Concentration or memory problems
Does not "feel right" or is "feeling down"
Most concussions resolve within a few days or weeks, and emergency help is required in very few instances. However, if your child has suffered a concussion, it is important to observe them carefully until they have been cleared to return to unrestricted physical and cognitive activity by a medical professional.
If any of the above signs/symptoms appear at any time, call 9-1-1 and seek help immediately.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was the source for the information provided in this article.