A concussion — which is a type of traumatic brain injury — occurs because of a forceful impact to the head or because the body moves in such a way that the brain hits the skull. This injury can damage brain cells and nerves, cause chemical changes to the brain, and impact the brain’s ability to function normally.
At MidJersey Orthopaedics, with four offices in Flemington, Bridgewater, and Washington, New Jersey, our providers are experts in diagnosing, managing, and treating concussions in patients of every age.
In this blog, our providers explain what you need to know about concussions to ensure your child stays healthy and recovers quickly if they suffer this injury.
1. Kids may not know how to describe concussion symptoms
While adults and children typically have the same symptoms of a concussion, kids may not be able to identify and describe their symptoms well. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents understand and be on the lookout for potential concussion symptoms.
It’s also imperative that parents teach their children what these symptoms are. When kids understand the symptoms, they’re usually more likely to report a concussion, which can lead to a faster recovery.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for and to teach your child include the following:
- Feeling dizzy or having trouble with balance
- Having a headache or pressure in their head
- Experiencing vomiting or nausea
- Having difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Issues with vision or sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Slurred or slow speech
- Mood changes, such as irritability or anxiety
- Memory loss or confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Generally feeling unwell
It can take days — and even weeks — for concussion symptoms to appear. And even if your child’s symptoms are mild or delayed, their brain is still at risk.
2. Concussions are different in boys and girls
Researchers have found that concussions affect girls and boys differently, with girls experiencing a greater number of symptoms as well as more severe symptoms. Researchers believe that multiple factors influence these gender-based concussion differences, including things like the role of hormones, blood flow, and neck structure.
3. Sleep is key to recovery
Children may need 20-40% more sleep after experiencing a concussion to help their brain recover. If you’re worried about your child sleeping after their injury, check their breathing, but avoid waking them up. Talk to your provider at MidJersey Orthopaedics for more information.
4. Imaging tests aren’t always needed
Most of the time, children don’t need to be exposed to imaging studies, such as MRIs or CT scans, to diagnose a concussion. While these tests are useful in some cases, your provider may be able to use symptoms and a comprehensive history to determine if your child has a concussion.
5. Tracking symptoms is important
If you suspect your child has a concussion, it’s important to track their symptoms to see if they worsen over time or with exposure to certain triggers. The first 24-48 hours after a concussion are important in the recovery process, and identifying what, if anything, makes their symptoms worse can help your provider create the most effective treatment plan for your child.
6. Take things slowly
Your child may say they feel better and be anxious to return to school or sports, but going back to normal activities too soon may cause more problems. A return to school should come before a return to sports, and it may be necessary for them to take added breaks, have a lighter course load, or rest between classes.
7. Light exercise may help recovery
It’s important not to return to sports or high levels of physical activity too soon, but some light physical exercise may help your child’s brain recover faster. Research shows that by increasing their heart rate with gentle exercise, the added blood flow to the brain may help encourage repairs. Every situation is different, however, so it’s important to follow your provider’s advice.
8. Prevention is key
The best way to safeguard your child against the effects of concussion is to teach your child about concussion prevention. Talk to your child about playing sports safely and avoiding high-risk activities. And work with your child to ensure they wear a helmet when they engage in activities with an increased risk of head injury, and teach them to speak up if they experience a head injury, no matter how mild.
9. Seek medical help
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends always taking your child to the doctor for an evaluation within one or two days of any head injury. Remember, concussion symptoms don’t always appear right away.
If you suspect your child has a concussion, or if you want concussion management and treatment for your child, book a same-day appointment online or over the phone with MidJersey Orthopaedics today.