Concussions are head injuries that can occur due to sports, physical activity, or an accident. These injuries can range in severity and often present common symptoms like headaches and dizziness. This guide to concussions and what to do will outline the basics and what you can expect when it comes to treatment. Concussions are very treatable with rest and a slow return to regular activities.
How do concussions happen?
Concussions occur when the brain moves inside the skull. Instances like falling, a blow to the head, and a harsh jolt to the neck or head (like in a car accident for example) can cause a concussion. A chemical change happens as a result of these forceful motions leading to common concussion symptoms.
Concussions are not strictly from situations where a person is rendered unconscious due to a head injury. Many times these circumstances do cause concussions but there are plenty of circumstances where someone can sustain a concussion without becoming unconscious.
Kids and teens are most susceptible to concussions when playing sports like football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, and cheerleading. Bicycle accidents, fights, falling, and other common head injury accidents can all cause a kid or teen to sustain a concussion.
What are the signs of a concussion?
Concussion symptoms may appear after a number of hours or even after a number of days. If you know your child has sustained a head injury recently, keep an eye out for the below symptoms.
- Vision changes
- More trouble focusing
- Feeling sluggish
- Not remembering the injury
- Not remembering a portion of time before or after the injury
- Trouble walking and talking
- Sleep problems
Diagnosis and treatment
If your child has recently suffered from a head injury, stop doing moderate to intense activities like sports and running until you can see a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider will ask questions about the injury, and symptoms and then test certain cognitive and physical functions like memory, concentration, balance, and reflexes. Concussions do not appear on MRI or CAT scans though these tests may be recommended if the head injury was sustained in a serious incident like a car crash or the patient is experiencing severe symptoms.
Recovering from a concussion requires rest and a very gradual transition back into moderate to intense activity. Most importantly, follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations. You can expect that the first couple of days should be spent resting and minimizing physical activities and tasks that require a high level of concentration. Getting plenty of sleep is crucial for recovery. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule and let your child sleep if they’re tired. You don’t have to worry about waking them up to check on them unless your healthcare provider says to. Your child can start to add more activity before all symptoms have disappeared. If their symptoms get worse while doing an activity then take a break from that activity and try to come back in an hour, try again the next day, or try a less intense version of the activity.
Post Concussion Activity Ideas
- Reading books, comics, or magazines
- Keep to your personal hygiene routine
- Gentle exercises like stretching and walking
- Snuggle with pets
- Organize something
- Board games
After a couple of days, they may be ready to return to school, though consider a half day or lighter workload if possible to help ease them back into the school routine. Work with their school to create a plan together. For more ways to aid in the recovery process keep these tips in mind.
- Limit or avoid screen time. It is likely to cause symptoms or make them worse.
- Don’t let your teen drive until their healthcare professional clears them.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Take medicine as directed by a healthcare provider.
- Avoid returning to sports until all symptoms have cleared and they have been cleared by their healthcare provider.
Sources: Nemours, Brain Injury Society of Toronto