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The Informed Parent

Concussion Update: What Parents Need To Know

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 08, 2010

Kids are back to school and well into fall sports, so it’s a good time to review sports-related concussions and the new guidelines for management.

A concussion is an injury to the brain, usually after trauma to the head. A helmet can prevent concussions and brain injury, but not always. We often think of football as the most common cause of concussions. But almost all sports carry a risk of head injury, including sports where a helmet is not required, such as basketball or soccer.

The usual signs of a concussion are:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of consciousness

There has been a recent increase in sports-related concussions in young athletes from 8 to 19 years old. This is most likely because there are more kids signing up for organized sports with more practice and game times. The reason for concern is that children can have more long-term effects from a concussion. Even a mild concussion to a developing brain can potentially cause long-term symptoms and school difficulty. Since the brain continues to develop until the early 20’s, young athletes are particularly vulnerable to brain damage. 

Another concern is Second Impact Syndrome. If a second injury to the head occurs while the first injury is still recovering, the brain can swell and cause permanent neurological damage or death.

So, what does this mean for the athlete in your home? If he or she has a concussion, even very mild, the new recommendation is to STAY OFF THE FIELD! Young athletes should NEVER return to play on the same day.

Next, SEE YOUR DOCTOR. Any child or teen who has a concussion must be cleared by a physician before returning to activity. Also, be sure to REST YOUR MIND AND BODY. All young athletes should avoid ALL physical activity until they are completely symptom free, both at rest and after returning to some activity.

This is a change from previous thinking. Many parents and coaches used to believe concussions were not a big deal and kids need to “tough it out”. However, this is very dangerous thinking. Many kids have ended up with permanent neurological damage from repeated concussions, and some have died from Second Impact Syndrome.

We as parents, coaches and pediatricians need to be cautious and make sure it is safe for the athlete to return to play.

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