Has your child ever had a concussion? Has your child ever had a brain injury? If you answered yes to the first question, you should have answered yes to the second question. It is important to remember that a concussion, no matter how severe, is an injury to the brain.
I recently attended the fourth annual International Summit on concussions in children. Some of the top researchers in pediatric concussions presented their latest findings. Concussions have come to the forefront of medical research since the discovery of brain damage in professional football and hockey players from repetitive blows to the head. Leagues are changing their rules with regards to hits to the head in an attempt to prevent this from happening to future generations of players. There had previously been a lack of research and a lack of knowledge on the part of coaches and players. The mentality in sports was to shake it off and get back in the game. This was evident in 2013 when a female rugby player in Canada died at the age of 17 when she suffered her third concussion in a week. She didn’t mention to her coaches or parents that she wasn’t feeling well after being hit in the head, and continued to play. Thurman Thomas, former player for the Buffalo Bills, spoke about the symptoms he is starting to suffer, at the age of 50, from repeated blows to the head. He suffers from mood swings, memory loss and confusion.
One of the largest studies took place in Canada at emergency departments across the country. The researchers were trying to determine which factors could predict if children would have a quick recovery from the concussion or not. They included children from the ages 5-18. Some of the factors they discovered that would lead to a slower recovery included: prior concussion, if the child answers questions slowly, if they have balance problems, if they have a headache, if they are sensitive to noise, and if they suffer from fatigue. If the child only has one or two symptoms, they will likely have a fast recovery, but having multiple symptoms will often result in a slower recovery.
Treatment for Concussions
Other studies focused on the best treatment for concussions. It was previously believed that sitting at home and resting completely was the best treatment, but studies are showing that could actually be more harmful. Now it is recommended for the child to return to school and be around their peers. Even if they can’t do school work and may need to take breaks, it has shown that children have a faster recovery and a quicker return to sport if they are not isolated at home for a long period. Children should not return to full participation in sport until they have a full return to school. It is very important that an athlete have a gradual return to sport and have to be completely symptom free before progressing to the next stage. Any athlete who has a concussion needs to see a doctor after the injury, and before returning to sport.
Rehabilitation exercises are also helpful, including working on balance, getting treatment on the neck, and specialized treatment if the athlete suffers from dizziness.
Madeleine Hunter, CAT(C), RMT
I have included some links below from the latest research with guidelines for parents, athletes, and coaches on treating a concussion.