Although children are pretty durable in all the tumbles they take, there is one injury that should always be taken very seriously: a head injury. A fall, a softball to the helmet, or a collision on the soccer field could all result in a concussion and should be closely monitored. Because concussions can take a few days to present symptoms, it is important to know what to look for and observe your child’s behavior and routine after a possible concussion in order to begin the recovery process as soon as possible.
Regardless of how the concussion occurred, the signs to look for fall into four categories and should be examined by a medical professional.
Cognitive-Your child can seem confused, disoriented and easily distracted. Your child may also show signs of memory loss and may be slow to respond to questions.
Physical-Headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and loss of consciousness are post-concussion symptoms. Your child may also have balance issues, blurred vision, poor coordination and sensitivity to light or noise.
Emotional-Nervousness or anxiousness can be expected, as well as sadness or mood swings and inappropriate behavior.
Sleep- Having a concussion can lead to sleeping problems like difficulty falling asleep, frequently waking up throughout the night, fatigue or tiredness during the day or the inability to be awakened.
It’s important to note that children with concussions heal much more slowly than adults. The effects of a concussion can last weeks or months in children and can heavily interfere with school and social activities. If your child is having severe symptoms, it’s very important that they see a doctor immediately in order to make sure the head injury isn’t more serious than a concussion.
If your little athlete suffers a concussion, he or she should stop playing immediately. Your child should absolutely not return to any physical activity on the same day the concussion occurred. Even if the symptoms appear to go away soon after the injury, they cannot re-enter the game. Your child should be restricted from physical and cognitive activity until they are fully healed. They must be cleared by a healthcare professional before resuming normal activities.
For athletes, there is a general recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for return-to-play protocol. It advances in a step-wise fashion, and athletes must wait 24 hours between each step. Should symptoms arise, the child must wait an additional 24 hours before repeating the previous step and moving on. Here are the recommended steps for recovery:
- Complete physical and cognitive rest while symptoms are present
- Light aerobic activity after symptoms subside
- Participate in sport specific activities with no head impact
- More complex, non-contact drills
- Full contact practice
- Normal gameplay
The best way to begin recovery is to rest and relax for at least a few days. Excessive physical and cognitive rest is unnecessary, though. Give it a few days, and although it may be difficult at first, ease back into normal cognitive tasks. For children, returning to school can be fairly difficult, so it may be best for you and your child to make a short-term plan for the school day. This plan may include more frequent breaks when doing homework and additional time to complete exams and other assignments.
Children should be focused on returning to school before returning to sports and should take everything in moderation. If your child is believed to have suffered a concussion, you can make an appointment at Association of Childcare Physicians by calling (618) 235-2311 or by visiting our website.