For many families, springtime means sports. Whether it be soccer, baseball, roller hockey, track, or softball, parents and kids alike tend to spend a lot of time around ball fields and rinks.
There are many benefits — physical, social, and emotional — for kids who participate in youth sports.
But there are some risks too. Parents and players will both benefit from learning about and understanding concussions, including how to spot them and where to go for help.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a hit or jolt to the head. It can also be caused by a hit to the body that causes the head to suddenly move, creating a jolt to the brain. When something like this happens, it can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes and sometimes damaging the brain cells.
Talk with your kids about concussions. Emphasize that they should report any blows, bumps, or symptoms to you and their coach immediately. Remind them that it’s better to miss one game than the whole season.
It is important that your child's coach and parents work together to create a culture of safety for the team. Players should always follow the rules of the sport and practice good sportsmanship. When appropriate, children and teens should wear a helmet to lower their risk of injury. But remember, no helmet is concussion-proof. Even when wearing a helmet, players must report any incident that could put them at risk.
HOW CAN I SPOT A POSSIBLE CONCUSSION?
Children and teens who show or report one or more of the signs and symptoms listed below — or even just “don’t feel right” after a hit to the head — could have a concussion:
- Seems dazed or stunned
- Appears confused about what is happening in the game
- Becomes clumsy or sluggish
- Is slow to respond to instructions or questions
- Demonstrates mood, behavior, or personality changes
- Complains of headache or pressure
- Experiences nausea or vomiting
- Develops dizziness or vision problems
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD HAS THESE SYMPTOMS?
If you think your child or teen may have a concussion, you should keep them out of play for the rest of the day. Schedule an appointment with a health care provider who is experienced in evaluating for a concussion. Follow the provider's instructions for when it is safe to return to play.
Concussions affect each person differently. While most people will feel better within a few days, seek immediate treatment for your child if more serious symptoms develop.
WHEN SHOULD I SEEK EMERGENCY MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD?
In rare cases, a hematoma can form on the brain after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body and can squeeze the brain against the skull. Call 9-1-1 or take your child to a Pediatric ER right away if he or she exhibits one or more of these serious warning signs:
- Dilated pupils or one pupil larger than the other
- Extreme drowsiness or inability to wake up
- Slurred speech or decreased coordination
- Repeated vomiting, convulsions, or seizures
- Loss of consciousness (even briefly)
Children and teens who continue to play with concussion symptoms or who return to play too soon increase their risk of getting another concussion. A second concussion that happens while the brain is still healing can affect a child for a lifetime.
Never judge the severity of the injury yourself; a health care provider should assess your child for a possible concussion. The brain needs time to heal, and your child's return to the field should be a gradual process that is carefully managed and monitored by a health care provider.