As school begins, so do Fall sports. While Friday nights on the football field are mostly fun evenings filled with plenty of school spirit, it’s important to recognize the risks associated with football, soccer, wrestling and any other sport where physical contact is a factor. In recent years, head injuries in youth sports have taken the spotlight, and for good reason. In 2012, over 320,000 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in U.S. emergency departments for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI. (1)
To understand the serious nature of head injuries, you must first understand some basic terminology. Often when a child suffers a blow to the head, the first concern is that the child has a concussion. A concussion is a “type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—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.” (2) When this occurs, it can cause the brain to suddenly, and violently, bounce around or twist within the skull. This can lead to possible chemical changes within the brain, or damage to the brain cells themselves. (3) From the CDC, the symptoms of a concussion can be either reported or observed and include:
Concussion Symptoms Observed:
- Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
- Appears dazed or stunned.
- Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
- Moves clumsily.
- Answers questions slowly.
- Loses consciousness (even briefly).
- Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
Concussion Symptoms Reported (by the patient):
- Headache or “pressure” in head.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
- Bothered by light or noise.
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
- Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
- Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.
Symptoms of a concussion may not show up until several hours, or even days, after the injury occurs. It is important to continue monitoring for symptoms for multiple days after you child experienced a head injury. Occasionally the victim may experience more serious symptoms that can indicate an injury that requires immediate medical attention.(4) If your child exhibits any of the following after a head injury, call 911 or take your child to the emergency room right away:
Head injury danger signs:
- One pupil larger than the other.
- Drowsiness or inability to wake up.
- A headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures (shaking or twitching).
- Unusual behavior, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
- Loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out). Even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously.
After a child experiences a head injury, it may be necessary for the child to take a break from school. The time away is dependent on the severity of the injury and the individual child’s needs. Most schools will have resources to help your child (and you!) with the transition away from, and then back into school. (5) The decision to take an academic hiatus will be dependent on your child’s medical examination and insight from their physician. It is vital that the child not overstimulate themselves while recovering. If it is necessary for the patient to step back from school, then they will need to abstain from any sports or vigorous physical activity to give their brain plenty of time to recover. This is absolutely imperative – after a concussion, the patient’s body needs ample time to recover and this should NEVER be rushed.
We want your children to enjoy childhood sports and activities while staying safe in the process! Remember to have your child wear a helmet while playing contact sports, riding a bike/scooter, roller skating, skiing/snowboarding, horseback riding or any other activity where a fall is a risk. If you think your child has suffered a head injury or concussion, remember to call your doctor right away. On the subject of injuries that affect the brain, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you have any additional questions regarding this topic, please call our offices at 615-352-2990.