How do you know if it's a concussion?
Jan 2, 2018, 9:59:58 AM CST Jun 8, 2018, 1:03:13 PM CDT

How do you know if it's a concussion?

Your child has suffered a head injury. What's next? Learn the signs of a concussion and when to get your child evaluated.

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Accidents can happen in sports, but what are the proper steps to take if your child has been hit in the head? As a parent, it is important to know what to look for if you suspect that your child may be suffering from a sports concussion.

By definition, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that results from biomechanical forces that affects the physiological process of the brain. “It’s like an egg yolk shaking inside of an egg shell. The youth athlete gets hit in the head and the brain moves inside of the skull,” explains Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert at Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

What do I do if my child has suffered from a head injury?

The most important thing that a parent or coach can do is to immediately remove the athlete from the playing field.

“The major thing that causes more problems with concussions is more trauma,” says Dr. Burkhart. “We want to immediately remove that athlete from the opportunity to sustain more trauma. The follow up to that is getting quick access to medical providers who can start to direct that recovery process.”

What symptoms should I be looking for?

If your child has suffered a head injury, there are a few telltale signs that may indicate a concussion:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Memory difficulty
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Personality changes
  • Eye Tracking

“The brain performs many functions and a concussion can affect things such as thinking, memory and emotions. It can also be the way a person sleeps or interacts with other people,” says Troy M. Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at Children’s Health Andrews Institute.

“I remember that after I hit the wall, I was on the floor grabbing my head because it hurt really bad,” says 15-year old Colin, who was diagnosed with a sports concussion after being injured in a basketball game. “I had never had a headache that bad; it was a continuous headache for about a week.”

Keep in mind that your child may not display every one of the above symptoms and that signs of a concussion can vary on an individual basis. Understand the symptoms of a concussion and how they can affect your child by going over the concussion symptom wheel.

When should I take my child to get evaluated for a concussion?

If you suspect that your child may have a concussion, it is important to have the athlete evaluated by a medical professional soon after suffering injury.

“The first 24 to 72 hours is critical to be able to start to guide that rehab process. We really want to be dictating that treatment recovery process as early as possible,” says Dr. Burkhart.

It is also important for parents to understand when a visit to the emergency room is warranted. Dr. Smurawa explains: “There are certain signs and symptoms that may suggest a more serious brain injury, such as loss of consciousness, extreme agitation or disorientation, or a very severe headache, and they should be taken to the emergency room for further evaluation.”

Watch our concussion video series to learn more about detecting, preventing and treating concussions.

Learn more

The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.

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