Childhood concussions: What parents need to know

Sept. 22, 2019— For many children, going back to school means it's time to play sports. If you're a parent of an athlete, make sure to learn the basics about concussions. Knowing the facts may help protect your child.

How do concussions happen?

Concussions are traumatic brain injuries. They occur when a blow to the head or body causes the head to move quickly back and forth and makes the brain bounce or twist in the skull. This can create chemical changes in the brain and damage brain cells.

Concussions can happen in any sport. But the sports in which concussions are most common for boys are tackle football, lacrosse, ice hockey and wrestling, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And, for girls, they are soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and basketball.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a parent should suspect a concussion if the child:

  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets instructions; is unsure of the game, score or opponent; or gets confused about an assignment or position.
  • Moves clumsily and answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior or personality changes.
  • Can't recall events before or after the injury.

Symptoms that a child may report include:

  • Headache or pressure in the head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems, dizziness or blurry vision.
  • Light or noise sensitivity.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy.
  • Confusion or concentration problems.
  • Feeling down or not right.

What should you do after a concussion?

Children or teens should immediately stop playing or practicing if they possibly have a concussion. Tell your child to alert coaches and trainers after a hit to the head, no matter how minor the injury seems.

Kids who keep playing after a concussion or who return to play too soon have a greater chance of getting another concussion, according to CDC. A repeat concussion can cause serious health problems.

Kids who have concussion symptoms should see their healthcare provider. They should only return to sports when cleared by their doctor.

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