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Children and Concussions: Commonly Asked Questions

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Concussion and Children

What should I do if I think my child has had a concussion?

If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he or she must be immediately removed from play, be it a game or practice. Continuing to participate in physical activity after a concussion can lead to worsening concussion symptoms, increased risk for further injury, and even death.

Parents and coaches are not expected to be able to “diagnose” a concussion, as that is the job of a medical professional. However, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion and if you are suspicious, then your child must stop playing.

When in doubt, sit them out!

All athletes who sustain a concussion need to be evaluated by a health care professional who is familiar with sports concussions. You should call your child’s physician and explain what has happened and follow your physician’s instructions. If your child is vomiting, has a severe headache, is having difficulty staying awake or answering simple questions he or she should be taken to the emergency department immediately.

Allowing enough healing and recovery time following a concussion is crucial in preventing any further damage. Research shows that the effects of repeated concussion in young athletes are cumulative. Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they are not returned to contact sports too soon.

 

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Following a concussion, there is a period of change in brain function that varies in severity and length with each individual. During this time, the brain is vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury. If the athlete sustains a second concussion during this time period, the risk of more serious brain injury increases.

When can an athlete return to play following a concussion?

After suffering a concussion, no athlete should return to play or practice on that same day. Previously, athletes were allowed to return to play if their symptoms resolved within 15 minutes of the injury. Studies have shown us that the young brain does not recover quickly enough for an athlete to return to activity in such a short time.

Concerns over athletes returning to play too quickly has led the State of Michigan to create the Michigan Concussion Law which requires the immediate removal of an athlete from physical participation in an athletic activity who is suspected of sustaining a concussion. The student athlete must then receive written clearance from a health professional before he or she can return to physical activity.

How can a concussion affect schoolwork?

Following a concussion, school-age students may have difficulty in school. These problems may last from days to months and often involve difficulties with short and long-term memory, concentration, and organization.

In many cases it is best to lessen the student’s class load early on after the injury. This may include staying home from school for a few days, followed by a lightened schedule for a few day, or perhaps a longer period of time, if needed. Decreasing the stress on the brain early on after a concussion may lessen symptoms and shorten the recovery time.