Children and Concussions: Know the Facts

As kids gear up for fall sports, it’s important to know the facts about concussions. While sports-related concussions can’t be prevented, awareness goes a long way in avoiding serious brain injury. Consider these myths:

Myth: A concussion is only diagnosed if the person loses consciousness or “blacks out.” Most concussions do not result in loss of consciousness. Concussions are diagnosed based on several symptoms resulting from impact to the head. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, confusion, irritability and change in personality or mood. Generally, the child will experience these signs immediately or within a few hours of the injury.

Myth: Children recover quickly from concussions. Children usually take longer to heal from concussions than adults, and the younger the child is, the longer the recovery. It may take a 10-year-old up to four weeks to recover, while a concussion in a high school freshman may resolve itself in 10 to 14 days. Adults may recover in just three to five days.

If your child suffers a head injury, seek medical care immediately. If a concussion is diagnosed, your doctor will likely recommend physical and cognitive rest. This means suspending sports and physical activity until the symptoms disappear. Schoolwork may be restricted to allow the brain time to heal. Children with concussions also should refrain from all activities that stimulate the brain – watching TV, using the computer and even texting.

Children are fully recovered from a concussion when they experience no symptoms at rest and exertion, and they are back to their cognitive baseline. Computerized cognitive tests (like the ImPACT test) administered by physicians trained in concussion management can help determine when cognition is back to baseline. Children (age 10 and older) involved in a contact sport should get a baseline cognitive test every two years. Physicians, schools and sports clubs offer these tests. The goal of treating a concussion with rest is to prevent another injury to the brain when it’s vulnerable. The good news is that children do fully recover from concussions. Following your doctor’s recommendations regarding rest and a gradual return to physical activity is the best approach.

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