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Managing Your Child’s Concussion

As you cheer on your child for another season of football, soccer or cheerleading, it’s important to know the risks that threaten their safety on the field. An estimated 283,000 children seek care in emergency departments in the U.S. each year for sports- or recreation-related traumatic brain injury-concussion (TBI). TBIs in contact sports account for approximately 45 percent of these visits. But there’s a lot you can do as a parent to help protect your child, and it all starts with learning more about this type of injury.

A concussion is brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head. Your child isn’t only at risk when he or she is playing a contact sport—it can also happen as the result of a car accident, a fight, a bicycle accident, playground activities or even from accidentally bumping into another student in the hallway or cafeteria. The most troubling aspect of a concussion is that it can be difficult to recognize since it’s not something that can be seen. So what should you look for if you suspect your child has a concussion?

Common signs of a concussion include headache, amnesia, nausea/vomiting, balance problems, sensitivity to light and or noise and feeling mentally foggy. Mary O’Connell, MSN, RN, trauma educator & injury prevention coordinator, Abington – Jefferson Health, notes that you should seek medical attention for your child after any head injury, regardless of whether or not they lose consciousness. Other symptoms of a concussion may include difficulty concentrating, memory loss, irritability, fatigue or generally abnormal behavior.

Adults can be impacted by concussions too, but a child or teen’s developing brain puts them at higher risk for trauma than adults. Having multiple concussions at a young age can also put one at risk for “stacking up” concussions. Otherwise known as second impact syndrome, this can cause brain swelling that could have severe, lasting impact, or even lead to death.

While concussions are common – even the NFL struggles greatly with the issue – each one that occurs causes some degree of injury to the brain. Even though it needs time to properly rest in order to heal, most people usually fully recover.

If your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, it’s important that they rest from both physical and mental activities, including avoiding television, video games, computers and reading. Yes, even thinking too much can make symptoms worse and cause further brain damage. While it may take several days to heal completely, not waiting long enough can put a child at risk for another concussion, which can extend symptoms and cause further brain damage.

To best protect your son or daughter, it’s important for all parents to understand the signs and symptoms of concussions and to stick to the treatment plan. You should also report a concussion as soon as possible to ensure that your child gets the medical attention he or she needs. At the end of the day, missing a game isn’t as severe as a concussion left untreated.

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