Concussion in children is a serious issue – especially when they are playing sport. Halifax-based Concussion Therapist John Gonzalez shares a guest blog about why it’s important to know the signs and how to treat it.
A lot of people still believe only adults get concussion – that somehow, children’s brains are different and if they take a hit to the head they can just bounce back up and get on with things. Or, if a child is diagnosed as having a concussion, they will be back to normal when they stop complaining of any symptoms.
Unfortunately, this is not the case!
Children are just as – if not more – likely to suffer a concussion!
After any blow to the head, anyone – regardless of age – should stop what they were doing, take some time to assess how they are and get checked out if needed: if in any doubt, sit out!
Only because someone (adult or child) stops complaining of symptoms , it does not mean their brain has recovered – it can actually take 8/9 times longer for this to happen!
How does a concussion occur?
Concussions occur when a force (usually a blow to the head, but not always) is transmitted through the brain, which sets off a series of chemical events in the brain tissue. Thankfully, with the correct management, we believe the brain tissue will recover by itself.
HOWEVER, should the brain take another blow (which doesn’t have to be as hard as the original trauma) before the nerves in the brain have recovered, then secondary impact syndrome can occur, which can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
What to do if you think your child has a concussion:
Firstly, rule out more serious conditions – get medical help if in doubt! Some (but certainly not all) worrying things to look for are differences in pupil size, drowsiness, severe headache, slurred speech, weakness, numbness or decreased co-ordination, repeated vomiting, seizures, unusual behaviours and any loss of consciousness (however brief). Also look out for bruising behind the ears and double ‘black-eyes’. If any of these are present or develop, get immediate medical attention!
Avoid any danger or risk of further head traumas – even if the child says they’re feeling okay, they need to be taken out of a game to be assessed properly.
In the days after, avoid complete rest; the child should take it easy and see your GP or a health professional trained in concussion management.
Symptoms of concussion:
Things to look out for include:
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to noise
Pressure in head
Feeling ‘slowed down’
Feeling ‘in a fog’
Nausea or vomiting
Feeling ‘not right’
Trouble falling asleep
Fatigue or low energy
Remember, symptom going away (especially when at rest) is not a good indicator of recovery. Your child needs to be cleared by health care professional before returning to sport.
How can concussion be prevented or limited?
Unfortunately, with certain sports and energetic children concussions will happen. The key is to make sure they are managed as safely as possible. These guidelines are a good place to start:
All sports/activities’ clubs where there is a decent risk of falls, head trauma etc, should have a clear concussion policy
It’s everybody’s responsibility –take it seriously and don’t pressure those recovering from concussion to play before it is safe to do so
Be alert and aware when playing – read the game! Those who can foresee an impact seem to fair better
Avoid hitting your head and use the correct technique (getting your head out of the way of knees and elbows goes a long way)
Stick to the rules! Officials need to enforce them as well. The rules in most sports are there for a reason – to keep the game fair and safe. Often, concussions come about due to unfair play
Wear well fitted, age appropriate protective equipment – they do help prevent serious injuries, although not concussions
Good coaching and good examples from spectators and parents
One question I am often asked is: “Do head guards and mouth guards stop concussion?” Unfortunately, at present the research shows there are no head or mouth guards which stop or lessen the severity of a concussion. They can stop other extremely serious conditions though, so they should be worn when appropriate.
John Gonzalez runs a specialist concussion and vestibular clinic in Halifax, near the Piece Hall. For more information, free access to further concussion management, help developing concussion protocols for sports clubs and access to the Concussion Tracker app – which helps teachers and sports coaches know when it is safe for players to return to sport – contact John at the Dizziness, Balance & Concussion Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.concussiontherapy.co.uk.
Dizziness, Balance & Concussion Centre, University Business Centre, Piece Mill, 25-27 Horton Street, Halifax. 07401 842311.