Sports injuries are usually something you can see right away, whether it’s a cut on your finger, a scrape on your elbow, or even a broken bone. On the other hand, concussions are invisible. But this type of injury can cause a lot of damage, especially in teens and children.
April is National Facial Protection Month; it’s an opportune time to consider how we can protect our children from head, face, and teeth injuries during sports and other activities.
What is a Concussion?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “a concussion is a type of brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works.” During a concussion, the brain moves rapidly back and forth inside the skull. A concussion can be caused by a bump or jolt to the head. Even mild bumps to the head can be serious and have a greater impact on young, developing brains. If left undetected, a concussion can result in long-term brain damage or even death.
Concussions are becoming more common. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that emergency room visits for concussions in kids ages 8 to 13 years old has doubled, and concussions have risen 200 percent among teens ages 14 to 19 in the last decade.
Signs of a Concussion
Signs that a concussion has occurred may show up immediately after the injury, but sometimes appear hours or even days later. Watch your child to see how he or she is feeling. Many people assume a concussion will cause someone to faint, but people with concussions do not always lose consciousness. If your child or teen has two or more of the following symptoms, get him or her checked by a doctor.
Symptoms You Observe
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Is confused about events
- Answers questions slowly
- Repeats questions
- Can’t recall events before the hit, bump, or fall
- Can’t recall events after the hit, bump, or fall
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows behavior or personality changes
- Forgets class schedule or assignments
Symptoms Reported by Your Child/Teen:
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Feeling more slowed down
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
- Headache or “pressure” in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Fatigue or feeling tired
- Blurry or double vision
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Numbness or tingling
- Does not “feel right”
- More emotional than usual
- Sleeps less than usual
- Sleeps more than usual
- Has trouble falling asleep
If you witness or your child experiences the following symptoms, immediately take him/her to the emergency department or call 911.
- One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
- Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
- A headache that gets worse and does not go away
- Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Convulsions or seizures
- Difficulty recognizing people or places
- Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
- Unusual behavior
- Loss of consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)
What to Do in the Event of a Concussion
If your child or teen has a concussion, he/she needs to stop all activity immediately. Returning to normal physical activities, such as sports, and mental activities, such as focus and concentration in school, can cause damage. Encourage rest and allow breaks. Your child’s doctor may request you to keep him/her home from school for a day or two. He/she will instruct you when it’s OK to return to normal activities.
Prevention is the Best Cure
Physical activity and sports are healthy pursuits that promote teamwork and fitness. However, concussions can be dangerous, and child and teen athletes are also exposed to numerous other potential injuries. To prevent injury as much as possible, rely on the following measures:
- Wear a helmet. No helmet is concussion proof, but it will go a long way to protecting your child. Be sure the helmet is the correct one for the sport in which he/she participates, whether that’s bicycle riding or lacrosse. Check out this fact sheet for helmet types.
- Wear other protective gear as needed. These might include pads — neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin — protective cups, mouthguards, other face guards, or goggles/other eyewear.
- Create a safe sports culture. Be sure your child’s team is one in which rules are followed, and he/she feels comfortable reporting injuries or problems to the coach.
- Take breaks. Rest periods during play and practice can help, especially during hot times of the year.
- Have a rest day. Your athlete should have at least one full day of rest and recovery each week, plus one month off per year.
- Drink plenty of fluids during play and practice, even more so when temperatures climb.
- Stretch before and after play.
- Teach your child not to play through the pain. Pain is one of the body’s warning signs that something is wrong.
If you are concerned about your child’s well-being during sports or other activities, contact us today and talk to his/her doctor at Generations Family Practice. We’re happy to help your child enjoy sports and physical activity.