Since COVID has taken over the conversation we have kind of forgotten about this concussion thing until we heard the news—fall sports are ON. So-what happens if my child gets a concussion this year? What should I look for as a parent/coach? I hope that I can give you the basics of understanding what a concussion is-what to look for, and to seek treatment if symptoms persist.
The Mayo Clinic defines a concussion as, “A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination. Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head. Violently shaking of the head and upper body also can cause concussions. Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not. Falls are the most common cause of concussion. Concussions are also common if you play a contact sport, such as football or soccer. Most people usually recover fully after a concussion.”
Gone is the age-old adage that you “shake it off” when you “get your bell rung.” More and more science is showing that, especially in children, you need to be paying attention to those little concussions because over time they could develop into more chronic disorders such as neurological problems (balance, coordination, speech issues, cognitive delays), post-concussion syndrome, second impact syndrome and/or CTE.
Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion. You don’t have to lose consciousness to get a concussion or post-concussion syndrome. In fact, the risk of post-concussion syndrome doesn’t appear to be associated with the severity of the initial injury. In most people, symptoms occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within three months. Sometimes, they can persist for a year or more.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a very rare disorder that is not yet well understood. CTE has been found in the brains of people who played football and other contact sports, including boxing. It may also occur in military personnel who were exposed to explosive blasts. Some signs and symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions, and other behaviors. It’s thought that these develop years to decades after head trauma occurs. Even though these symptoms are rare, we are learning more and more about this complicated disorder.
What about my child-athlete?
What should I do if I suspect they have a concussion?
The first visible clues of a concussion in your child after an impact or collision are:
- Clutching head
- Trouble with balance
- Dazed, blank or vacant look
If it were MY kid—I’d have them get checked by the trainer and have them sit out the rest of the game/match. In the midst of a game you have adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol (depending on how the game is going) pumping through their body—they may not even feel the total effects of what is happening inside of them because of all the hormone release going on.