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Concussions in youth sports have been a hot topic in recent years, with parents taking various stances on the issue.
While this issue is concerning and deserves to be discussed by both parents and doctors, children experience concussions most frequently from falls or accidents. For parents, understanding the signs of a concussion is essential to ensure easy detection and immediate treatment. When children experience concussions they usually heal quickly, but only if precautions are followed.
Signs of Concussions
A concussion is defined as a mild traumatic brain injury. When the brain, which is surrounded by protective fluid, makes impact with the hard skull, the tissue can be bruised and cause a concussion. Because of the high danger level of not being examined by a doctor, parents should bring their child to be treated even if they are only experiencing one of the below listed symptoms. Some of the symptoms include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Balancing difficulties/dizziness
- Distorted vision
- General confusion
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Slurred speech
Concussion symptoms can sometimes take a day to appear, and can worsen in the following days after an injury. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, bringing them to a doctor will ensure proper diagnosis and swift treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When diagnosing a concussion, the doctor will ask your child some questions to determine how their brain is functioning. There will also be a physical exam to test balance, coordination, and reflexes. Depending on the severity of the injury, an MRI or CAT scan might be requested to rule out internal bleeding or further damage. If your child is diagnosed with a concussion, the treatment plan will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
For cases that are not so severe that a hospital visit is required, the doctor will prescribe a set of parameters for the parents to implement at home. Most important is both mental and physical rest. While kids are still presenting symptoms of the concussion, keeping the daily schedule minimally stressful and as basic as possible is very important. Encouraging generally healthy behavior like drinking a good amount of water and eating nutritious foods is advisable. Some other rules to enforce for children and adolescents recovering from concussions include:
- No sports or physical activities
- No computer
- No cell phone or electronic devices
- Avoiding schoolwork
- No reading
- No TV/video games
- Avoiding bright light
- Avoiding loud noises
All of these rules can be slowly reduced with improvement of symptoms. Usually, symptoms are reduced within a few weeks. If your child is still experiencing severe symptoms after two weeks, his or her diagnosis may need to be reevaluated. More information from Dr. Arno Fried (featured in article below) on how to treat a concussion.
Concussions in the News
With the risks that concussions present, it is understandable that parents and coaches become very concerned about their role in competitive sports. Football is particularly concerning because of the amount of physical contact involved. There have been several high school players who have died as a result of traumatic brain injuries they received on the playing field. Though neurosurgeons have differing views on the solutions to this ongoing problem, Dr. Arno Fried, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Advanced Neurosurgery Associates recently was interviewed on the topic and gave his point of view. The full article can be read here, but in summary, Dr. Fried believes that the most important aspect of this issue is education. The more parents, coaches, trainers, and athletes become aware of the signs of concussions, the less chance of a more severe problem occurring. This topic will continue to be discussed until there is a clear solution.