The Facts About Concussions

A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis. Concussions are typically caused by a blow or jolt to the head and results in injury to the brain and neurologic dysfunction. Concussions are now called mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Concussions can happen in any sport but more often occur in contact/collision sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling and ice hockey. Concussions also occur in individual sports/activities (horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, bike riding, skateboarding) or from a non-sports-related collision (the ground, a wall, a tree or a ball/object that has been thrown, hit or kicked).

Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately

If your child has experienced a concussion, or even if you suspect that he/she has, it’s extremely important to contact your pediatrician right away. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we have a sports medicine specialist on our team who has received specific training in the diagnosis and treatment of children’s concussions, as well as other injuries. If your pediatrician feels that your child should see this specialist, he/she will make a referral.

Symptoms of concussion

Symptoms of a concussion usually happen right after the injury but can also take hours or days to show up. Children who have had concussions may report feeling normal before their brains have fully recovered. With most concussions, the child is not knocked out or unconscious.

The most common symptoms of concussion are:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • balance problems
  • confusion
  • abnormal eye movements
  • feeling mentally “foggy”
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering
  • confusion about recent events
  • irritability
  • sadness
  • sleeping more or less than usual
  • difficulty falling asleep

How to prevent a sports-related concussion

Not all concussions can be prevented, but some can be avoided. Helmets should ALWAYS be worn for sports that require them. They should fit appropriately and be in good condition. Athletes should be taught safe playing techniques and to follow the rules of the game. Most importantly, athletes need to let their parents and coach/athletic trainer know if they have hit their head or are experiencing symptoms of a head injury — even if it means stopping play. Remember: Never ignore a head injury.

Returning to school after sustaining a concussion

If your child has sustained a concussion, it’s very important to follow these guidelines before allowing him/her to return to school:

Return to Learn (school)

Stage 1: No cognitive activity (reading, studying, doing homework)
Stage 2: Class attendance
Stage 3: Class participation
Stage 4: Homework
Stage 5: Return to full academic work

Returning to sports after sustaining a concussion

Similarly, if your child has sustained a concussion, it’s very important to follow these guidelines before allowing him/her to return to playing sports:

Return to Play

Stage 1: Rest, no activity
Stage 2: 15-20 minutes of light aerobic activity such as stationary bike, brisk walking.
Stage 3: Sport-specific drills, such as throwing, fielding, hitting for baseball, or jogging, passing, kicking for soccer (typically part of warmup).
Stage 4: Non-contact practice. Athlete can participate in all aspects of practice except scrimmages or games.
Stage 5: Contact practice. Participation in all aspects of practice including scrimmages and games.
Stage 6: Game. Athlete can participate in a game.

Top 10 Things to Remember When Your Child Has Had a Concussion

1) No return to play the same day.
2) Minimal school (or no school) for 48 hours after the concussion.
3) See your child’s pediatrician within 48 hours.
4) Get 10-14 hours of extra sleep for several nights.
5) Do NOT wake your child up in the middle of the night.
6) Shorten your child’s school day and take frequent rests throughout the day.
7) No physical activity until symptom-free at school.
8) Adherence to “Return to Learn” (school) and “Return to Play” protocols.
9) Pursue physical therapy, occupational therapy and cognitive therapy if needed.
10) X-rays, CT scan and MRI of brain/skull do not diagnose concussion.