A concussion is a brain injury that can result from a bump, blow or jolt to the head. The resultant injury may present in many different ways, but most often involves a headache and some change in ability to process information. Most commonly seen in children ages 7 to 17 who play contact sports such as football, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling; and in limited-contact or noncontact sports such as baseball, basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics, concussions are serious head injuries that must not be taken lightly.
“Concussions can be especially dangerous for youths and teens who experience repeated head injuries,” says David Braunreiter, M.D., board-certified in family medicine and sports medicine and credentialed as an ImPACT Concussion Consultant. “Often players return to a sport before they should, thinking there is nothing significantly wrong, or that a “bell-ringer” is not a serious injury. However, this is not true. The child’s brain is still growing and developing, so extra care in return to normal activities is imperative so as to prevent any long-term damage or cognitive impairment. The youth’s brain takes longer to recover from this injury than the adults, so we cannot assume that the same time frame we use for an adult is appropriate for children.”
Symptoms of a concussion
Dr. Braunreiter cautions parents to watch for the following symptoms if their child suffers a head injury:
• Loss of consciousness
• Blurry vision
• Headache (immediate and recurring)
• Nausea and vomiting
• Difficulty moving around (ataxia)
• Reaction to bright lighting
• Sensitivity to sounds
“Parents may also notice that their child has difficulty concentrating on homework, speech issues, sleep disturbances at night and general malaise or no energy,” shares Dr. Braunreiter. “Symptoms lasting longer than two weeks are called post concussive syndrome and a computed tomographic (CT) scan of the brain may be required at that point.”
Treating head injuries
If your child sustains a head injury, he or she should be pulled out of the game or practice and immediately sit down. “If unconscious, the child should not be moved,” says Dr. Braunreiter. “Usually an athletic trainer or physician is on-site to assist an injured child.” Methodist Orthopaedic Specialists of Texas physicians often serve as physicians on-site for most local high schools.
The main treatment for a head injury is to rest until symptom free. Use of computerized cognitive testing to assess for impairment is a critical part of helping determine the severity of the injury and when it appears to be safe to return to normal activities. For emergency attention, take your child to the Emergency Department at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. To make an appointment with Dr. Braunreiter or a MOST physician for a physical, sports injury evaluation or a follow-up visit, call 281-494-MOST (6678).