– Gramos Pallaska, PT, DPT, FAFS, CEAS
Even though parents know their kids risk injury every time they take the field to play sports, it doesn’t make it any less scary to watch your child get hurt — especially if they may have a concussion.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of concussion, along with what to do if you think your child may have one, can help you be better prepared to handle this common but frightening injury.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, usually caused by a blow to the head, that affects how the brain functions. Signs and symptoms of concussion include:
- “Seeing stars”
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears
While these symptoms are usually temporary, concussions can have long term effects — especially if a person experiences more than one.
Getting a concussion on top of a concussion can have serious consequences, including problems with memory, concentration and mental health. A traumatic brain injury may even increase a person’s risk of dementia, and the risk is greater with multiple injuries to the brain.
How Are Concussions Diagnosed?
Concussions are typically diagnosed based on a person’s symptoms and how they got their injury. One method used to evaluate people who may have sustained a concussion is called the sport concussion assessment tool 5 (SCAT5). SCAT5 is done in two parts — one immediately after the injury, and one later in a clinical setting.
The immediate assessment part consists of steps like looking for obvious symptoms of concussion, testing memory and checking for neck or spinal problems. The part of SCAT5 done later involves getting a detailed history of the person’s condition and performing cognitive and neurological evaluations.
Another tool for diagnosing concussions is a device called ImPACT that measures brain function. ImPACT uses baseline testing to document a person’s healthy brain function so results can be compared later if that person should suffer a head injury (and potential concussion). ImPACT is widely used to test the brain function of high school and college athletes.
The Importance of Self-Reporting
Since even the most hawk-eyed observer can’t see every hit kids take on the field, it’s important that coaches and parents warn kids about the dangers of concussion and encourage them to tell someone right away if they sustain a blow to the head and/or have concussion symptoms.
Explaining the damage concussions can do, and the lasting impact they can have on physical and mental health, may help your child understand why it’s necessary for them to be honest about potential concussions — even if it means they have to leave the field before the game is over.
With Concussions, You Can’t Be Too Careful
There’s absolutely no such thing as overreacting when it comes to concussions. If there’s even the slightest possibility that your child sustained a concussion while playing sports, it is crucial to have them evaluated immediately.
If there isn’t anyone on the sidelines who can perform an evaluation to check your child for concussion, reach out to their primary care provider (PCP). If the PCP isn’t able to see them right away, head to urgent care or the emergency room.
After examining your child, a healthcare provider can work with you and your child’s coach to determine the best course of treatment — and when they can safely return to their sport and other physical activities.
When it comes to protecting your child’s brain, it’s far better to be safe than sorry. Concussions should always be taken seriously.
If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for a concussion, or to schedule an appointment with any of our Pure Healthy Back experts, visit our appointment requests page, or call 888-396-2642.