Summer is upon us with its glorious long days of sunshine and warmth beseeching us to come out and play. With increased outdoor activity, there comes increased risk of a bump to the head and its good friend, the concussion. We often think of concussions in athletes, but they can happen with any head injury and often without loss of consciousness. Common injuries this time of year are bicycle accidents, skateboard accidents and even minor falls. It is important for parents and coaches to recognize the common signs and symptoms of a concussion so that kids can get prompt treatment and cognitive rest. It is important to monitor children even when they seem to feel okay because a concussion is a moving target, and symptoms can sometimes develop hours later. When we miss or dismiss such complaints, we put children at risk for recurrence and more prolonged recovery.
Signs and symptoms of concussions include:
Loss of consciousness
Difficulty walking or balance issues
Confusion and slurred speech
A concussion is a clinical diagnosis, meaning it is often made based on the story you tell your doctor without any further studies. If your child has any of the above symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician. Your child should be removed from play or practice immediately to prevent further injury. Depending on your child’s physical exam, your doctor may order imaging studies like a CT scan. It is not necessary to wake your child to check for symptoms even in the first 24 hours. Children usually recover in a week or two following the injury. Treatment with physical and mental rest will speed up recovery.
It is also important that we do all we can to prevent concussion in the first place. All kids should wear properly fitted helmets and other safety gear when playing contact sports, biking, rollerblading, and skateboarding. We cannot prevent every concussion, but we can do the best we can to keep our kids safe and minimize serious head trauma.
Concussion Signs and Symptoms
By Alison Alford, MD
Bon Secours Pediatric Neurology
5875 Bremo Road, MOB South, Suite 104
Richmond, VA 23226