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Recognizing Concussion Symptoms in Kids

About The Author

Dr. Nicole Brady

Medical Director

Network Health

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According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, an average of 1 to 2 million children and teens visit emergency rooms across the country for sport-related concussions. Often these injuries are the result of common activities – football, soccer, basketball, cycling and playground activities – and can lead to temporary loss of normal brain function.

Watching for Symptoms

Symptoms may appear almost immediately after the injury occurs, but can take 48-72 hours to fully develop. Younger kids often don’t realize they have a concussion and older kids will sometimes ignore them or try to downplay symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game. That’s why it’s important for coaches and parents to learn how to recognize symptoms.

Here are some symptoms you should watch for.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Balance issues
  • Nausea
  • Learning or memory problems
  • A headache
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty waking up after sleep

If you suspect your child has a concussion, immediately remove him or her from any situation that could potentially worsen the injury, as this can result in permanent brain damage, and rarely even death. That means not sending them back into a game or letting them continue to play, even if the symptoms go away. It’s important to make an appointment with your personal doctor or, depending on the severity of symptoms, visit your local emergency room for evaluation.

Treatment and Prevention

When concussions are treated properly, the risk of long-term complications is minimal. Treatment most often includes reducing stimulation, both physically and mentally. For example, if bright light worsens your child’s symptoms, he or she should wear tinted sunglasses during recovery. Or if studying bothers your child, that activity should be avoided as well. Typically, 80 to 90 percent of kids will see an improvement in symptoms within two weeks.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s crucial your child is completely healed before returning to normal activities. While recovering from a concussion, there’s an increased risk for suffering a second concussion. Suffering a second one could be life-threatening if it involves an injury to the same area of the brain.

Although many people look to wearing helmets as a way to prevent concussions, injuries can still occur even with protective gear. The best way to prevent injuries is by educating coaches and players how to hit appropriately while playing full contact sports. Limiting head contact and encouraging more shoulder or chest contact can help reduce concussions. Strengthening the neck muscles to control rotation and improve the stability of the head may also help.

Contact your family’s personal doctor to learn more about recognizing and preventing concussions, or to find treatment centers and other care options near you.

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