Concussions can happen in all kids, not just athletes
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:07AM
It is estimated that high school athletes sustain 300,000 concussions per year.
Awareness in youth sports leagues and organizations about this potentially life-altering injury is extremely important. Still, we need to be on the lookout off the field as well because athletes aren’t the only ones who are at-risk for brain trauma.
A concussion is the result of a traumatic brain injury that causes a disruption of the brain function. This can manifest itself with a multitude of symptoms, including headache, loss of consciousness, concentration and memory disturbances, dizziness, nausea/vomiting and confusion.
It can be difficult for a non-medical professional to discern if someone has had a concussion, because the symptoms depend on how the brain moves within the skull due to the injury. Everyone is different, and how a person responds after brain trauma varies. Also, how long symptoms last also varies from a few hours to several months.
The group most at-risk for brain trauma is very young children, since they have less protection and are more dependent on caregivers to keep them safe. They don’t have as many ways of protecting themselves from falls and accidents as adults and older children.
Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of the traumatic brain injuries in children are from a fall. Parents need to watch their children carefully, especially around stairs and on the playground. Make sure your child isn’t doing something that isn’t age-appropriate. Following safety guidelines for car seats is important for keeping kids safe as well.
Traumatic brain injuries and concussions shouldn’t be taken lightly. Timely recognition and appropriate response are vital. Any child who has had a concussion should be seen by a physician within 24 hours and have a complete neurological exam.
Even one concussion can have long-term effects, including learning difficulties and other issues that affect quality of life.
Though all kids are susceptible to concussions, special attention needs to be given to kids participating in sports. It’s imperative that coaches, supervisors and parents are all on the same page when it comes to brain injuries.
Any child who has a head injury, even if it seems minor, should immediately be taken out of practice or the game. Symptoms can happen immediately or even days after the injury, so don’t take any chances. A child’s brain function is more important than the next play. No one is immune to head injuries. Just because someone has had head trauma before and didn’t have any apparent issues doesn’t mean the next hit won’t cause substantial injury and long-term effects.~.
Ryan Coates, M.D., is a pediatric neurologist at Loyola University Health System