Heads Up! Child Concussion Rate Skyrockets | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 July 2012 14:36

072612hfBY LAWRENCE DICKINSON, M.D.

Special to the Times

In the past decade, the number of children and teens visiting the Emergency Department for sports- and recreation-related head injuries has skyrocketed by 60 percent.

Those of us who are involved in the lives of children and young adults should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Concussions — A bump, blow or jolt to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury by disrupting normal brain function.

Concussion, the most common TBI in children and teens, can vary in severity, from feeling dazed to completely losing consciousness with no memory of the event. Here are a few common symptoms:

• Headache

• Nausea or vomiting

• Dizziness and imbalance

• Loss of consciousness

• Fuzzy or blurry vision

• Feeling “dazed”

• Memory troubles

• Difficulty concentrating

Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of concussions in children and teens. For children under the age of nine, playground-related falls and bicycling accidents are a major source of head injuries.

On the playing field, teens in organized sports, such as soccer, football and lacrosse, are particularly vulnerable. Approximately nine percent of all high school athletic injuries are concussions.

Get help — Go to the Emergency Department immediately if your child has a loss of consciousness. If your child has not lost consciousness, but is experiencing any of the above symptoms, an evaluation by a health care professional is recommended. No one should return to athletic endeavors until all symptoms have been resolved.

Treatment — Your child needs to recover completely before returning to activities. Treatment usually includes the following:

• Rest

• Good hydration and nutrition

• No activity that provokes headache, such as exercise or activities involving concentration

• Medications for headache and nausea

Safeguard young brain — Make sure young children ride in car seats and that older children use seat belts. Helmets for skateboarding, bicycling and other sports can also prevent a concussion.

Before enrolling your child in a contact sport, make sure he or she has the skills to stay safe while playing the game. Also, make sure that your child’s coach can identify the signs of a concussion.

Return to play — If a child suffers a second concussion before the first is healed, he or she may develop second impact syndrome, which can cause brain swelling and permanent brain injury. Even if fully recovered, a child experiencing multiple concussions may suffer brain damage from the accumulative effect of the injuries.

California State Assembly Bill (AB) 25 — known as the “Return to Play” law — was recently passed to protect young athletes from further harm. AB 25 requires that any athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury during a school-sponsored activity be removed immediately from play.

The athlete cannot return to play until he or she has been evaluated and received written clearance from a licensed health care provider.

For years, Eden Medical Center has been partnering with local high schools to protect student athletes through our Impact Program, which helps sports-medicine clinicians evaluate each athlete’s recovery following a concussion to make sure they don’t return to play until they are fully healed.

Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about how to keep your child safe.

Lawrence Dickinson, M.D., is a board-certified neurosurgeon affiliated with Eden Medical Center and Alta Bates Medical Center.

 

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