Summer in Arizona. Also known as the “Desperation Months” when we parents attempt to keep our kids busy so that we can maintain at least an ounce of our sanity. Often, this means our kids are trying out new activities and sports. And sometimes, this means we may not be aware of their risk for concussions.
While most of youth sport concussions happen during football and ice hockey games, they can also occur during soccer, basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics – all sports that do not require helmets. Concussions can even happen when kids are just playing rough on the backyard grass.
So, what exactly is a concussion? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a “concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging the brain cells.”
If a child has sustained a concussion, here are some common symptoms that a parent might observe: the child moving clumsily, appearing confused or dazed, losing consciousness – even briefly, answering questions slowly, showing mood or behavior changes, and not being able to remember what happened right before or right after a hit or fall. The child may report feeling any of these ways: nauseated, dizzy, sluggish, head pressure or headache, sensitivity to light or noise, confused or “feeling down”.
More serious symptoms that would require immediate care at an emergency room are: convulsions, seizures, repeated vomiting, agitation, inability to wake up, and one pupil larger than the other.
If you suspect your child may have suffered a concussion, remove them from the activity and have them evaluated by a health care provider. It’s important to know that some symptoms may not show up for hours or days after the event happened.
The CDC wants parents to know that “children and teens who continue to play while having concussion symptoms or who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing— have a greater chance of getting another concussion. A repeat concussion that occurs while the brain is still healing from the first injury can be very serious and can affect a child or teen for a lifetime. It can even be fatal.” Therefore, rest is extremely important after a child sustains a concussion. This means absolutely no activities that involve physical or mental exertion, including watching TV, playing video games, texting, or using a computer. It’s also important that they stay well hydrated.
If your child begins a new sport or physical activity of any kind, ask them if the coach or director has discussed safety issues with them, and if not, inquire about that. You can help create a safe environment for your child, and all the participants, by stressing good sportsmanship and safety.
For more information on concussions look here.