Five Important Things To Know About Children And Concussions

1) What’s a concussion?

The Center for Disease Control defines a concussion as, “a brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.”

2) What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

A sign is something that can be observed, whereas a symptom is what is experienced by the affected person. Signs of a concussion include 1) not remembering events before or after the injury, 2) appearing dazed or stunned, 3) moving slowly or clumsily 4) changes in mood or personality.

Symptoms of a concussion include 1) nausea or vomiting, 2) dizziness, 3) headache, 4) memory and concentration difficulties, 5) blurry vision, 6) feeling hazy or groggy or “not right.”

3) How are concussions graded?

There are three grades of concussions: Grade 1 (mild), Grade 2 (moderate) and Grade 3 (severe). A concussion is mild when there is no loss of consciousness, and the symptoms last for less than 15 minutes.  A concussion is considered moderate when there is no loss of consciousness, but symptoms last for more than 15 minutes. A concussion is severe when there is loss of consciousness.

4) When should parents take their child to the hospital?

While many concussions resolve on their own with few (if any) side effects, some concussions are dangerous, and require immediate medical attention.  If your child has had a head injury and has 1) unequal pupils 2) drowsiness 3) vomiting 4) slurred speech 5) arm or leg weakness 6) seizures or 7) unusual behavior, take them to the ER immediately.

5) When can a child return to physical activity after a concussion?

If a child experiences a concussion, they should avoid any physical activity for at least 24 hours because if they sustain a second concussion before the first one has healed, they can experience exponentially worse symptoms.  Once their symptoms have resolved (and it’s been at least 24 hours since the injury), they should follow a gradual 6-step process of ramping up to their pre-injury activities, and wait 24 hours in between each step. If taking the next step causes their symptoms to recur, they should rest for at least 24 hours before attempting the step again.  The six steps are as follows:

  1. Back to non-sports activity (i.e., attending school)
  2. Light physical activity (5-10 minutes of biking, walking or swimming)
  3. Moderate activity (up to 20 minutes of jogging, biking or weight-lifting)
  4. Heavy, non-contact activity (non-contact sports drills, running, high-intensity workouts)
  5. Practice with full contact.
  6. Competition.

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