March is Brain injury awareness month and in recognition of this the Child Safety Blog is featuring a series of articles on concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children. We also did a public service announcement with Donna Broshek, who is the Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute. You can see the PSA here.
Your role as a parent is to both protect and encourage your child in the world. It’s a tough balance–you want your child to play sports and other recreational activities and you want them to be safe. By learning about concussions, the symptoms and how to prevent concussions, parents can help keep their kids safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year over 207,000 children are treated in emergency departments for sports-related concussions and other TBIs. The highest occurrence is for youth between the ages of 5-18.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Excessive shaking can cause a concussion. Even a seemingly mild bump or blow to the head can be cause for concern and require medical attention.
A concussion may last for a short time or it can produce symptoms that last for days or weeks. While symptoms may appear mild, in some cases the injury can result in significant, lasting impairments.
While these should not be considered the absolute indicators of a concussion, they are signs that your child should seek medical attention:
- Headache or neck pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Ringing in ears
- Temporary loss of consciousness or forgetting the incident
For more complete details on symptoms and what you should do, see this info sheet from The Mayo Clinic. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/concussion/DS00320/METHOD=print)
What To Do If You Think Your Child Has a Concussion
The first thing to do is call your child’s physician. He or she will give you advice on whether to seek immediate medical treatment or to wait and observe your child for a day or two. Some symptoms may not appear immediately so you need to pay careful attention for a number of days after the injury.
Take notes–it’s always helpful for doctors if you can provide a history of an accident. Was he hit in the head? Did she lose consciousness? For how long? Write down symptoms and any comments your child makes that may indicate signs of brain injury. For example, is your child confused about the day or time, or complaining of head pain or dizziness? The more information you can share with the doctor the better.
Try to keep your child calm during this initial period. Discourage too much physical movement and other strenuous or stressful events. Remember it’s always better to call the doctor if you’re concerned.
Some Statistics on Concussions
Children from birth to 9 years of age are most often injured during playground activities or while riding a bike.
- The highest occurrences are in football and girl’s soccer.
- Males represent 71.0% of all sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
- Children aged 10-19 years account for 70.5% of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
- For males aged 10-19 years, sports and recreation-related TBIs occurred most often while playing football or bicycling.
- Females aged 10-19 years sustained sports and recreation-related TBIs most often while playing soccer or basketball or bicycling.
If your child falls off his bike, bumps her head or is injured in a soccer game, he or she could suffer a concussion. Concussions can be serious if left untreated. Seek medical attention and keep a close eye on your child for the next few days–the doctor will give you suggestions on what to look for and what to do in the following days and weeks.
It’s important that you share information about the injury with teachers and coaches, if your child is in athletics, and ask them to help you watch for any potential signs of brain trauma.
And, as Donna Broshek advises in our PSA – when in doubt, sit them out.
In our next article we’ll talk about what parents can do to help prevent concussions.
Helpful Resources for Parents:
Concussions- The Kids Health Blog (http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/concussion.html# ) – Easy to read article describing concussions and the symptoms.
Concussion and Mild TBI (http://www.cdc.gov/Concussion/) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a wealth of resources on concussions.
Moms Team-Concussion Signs and Symptoms (http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-signs-and-symptoms-physical-cognitive-emotional-sleep-related) Online source for youth sports parents.