August 27, 2018
It’s easy to think of our kids as resilient. They seem to possess a supernatural ability to bounce back from falls, tackles, twisted ankles, and jammed fingers, especially when they’re eager to get back in the game.
But as adults, it’s our job to remember that kids are not invincible. And they can be particularly vulnerable to injuries that affect their still-growing brains. One of the most serious is concussion. If you don’t know what to watch out for, it can also be one of the easiest to overlook.
Here’s what you need to know.
Definition and Diagnosis
Concussions are closed head, traumatic brain injuries, usually the result of a blunt force impact. Because there is no open wound, a serious concussion can look the same as a mild bump. And if the injury takes place during a competitive game, your child might be reluctant to report the severity of the event for fear of being removed from play.
But if a concussion has taken place, that’s exactly what should happen. Generally, you can identify a concussion by how it disrupts normal behavior. That includes things like upsets to balance and coordination, as well as mental disruptions like changes in emotional regulation and logical thinking. If you notice physical or mental changes, it’s crucial that you take the injury seriously, and act quickly.
A concussion is a brain injury. Therefore, it’s the brain that needs to rest—as well as the body. That means taking a break from things like watching television, using the internet, and reading books. It can even mean turning off the lights.
While adults can sometimes feel a little impatient during recovery, young people are especially vulnerable to succumbing to the temptation to check their phones, play video games, or expose themselves to other unnecessary stimuli that could slow recovery. Adults should play an important role in helping enforce a rest period that will result in a successful recovery.
When the time does come to resume normal activity, it’s a good idea to do so slowly. A healing brain needs to be eased back into its daily routine in a cautious, graded manner. It’s also important to be alert for any signs of recurring symptoms; if that happens, the patient should immediately be placed back on rest.
The Danger of Recurrent Injury
While concussions are certainly treatable, there is still the danger of recurrence. This is especially true for young people who play sports, because their developing brains have a higher chance of sustaining another injury. And it’s when these injuries recur that outcomes can become devastating.
Multiple concussions can cause brain damage and interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate blood pressure, a symptom that carries a serious risk of death. The severity of these outcomes is why it’s so important to have a skilled caregiver evaluate an injury like this and develop a plan for treatment.