As parents this is not what we want to have happen during a sports season for sure! Unfortunately, it is estimated that as many as 3.8 million concussions occur in the USA per year during competitive sports and recreational activities; however, as many as 50% of the concussions may go unreported.
For school sports there hopefully will be an athletic trainer involved that can immediately assess your child after the injury. They will be checking for both physical and cognitive responses and making recommendations as to what happens next.
Depending on the child’s responses they may check in with the athletic trainer the next day, be referred to their family physician, or may need to go directly to the emergency room.
As a parent it is also important to monitor your child at home watching for any changes in behavior. You should also watch for continuation of other symptoms related to concussion including.
- Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering new information
- Headaches, nausea, vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or noise,
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Blurry vision
- Feeling tired, no energy
- Mood irritability, sadness, more emotional
- Increased nervousness and anxiety
- Sleeping more or less than usually, trouble falling asleep
Often it can just be allowing the child to sleep and “rest” the brain for several days for full recovery. However, sometimes the symptoms can extend and last longer than desired. When this happens a physician’s referral for a physical and speech therapy evaluation is recommended.
Physical therapy can provide a thorough evaluation to assess areas of cervical dysfunction, visual and oculomotor issues, vestibular issues and balance/coordination.
Treatment may consist of manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, gait and balance activities or modalities in a supervised environment with monitoring of physical symptoms and reactions.
Speech therapy will perform a complete standardized assessment in cognitive linguistics areas which may include the following:
- memory, orientation
- problem solving
- organizational language
- abstract thinking
For a child that is involved in a sport but may be younger or in sport where no athletic trainer is involved it will definitely require the parent to monitor the child and have them assessed by their physician. Again, if concussion is diagnosed, rest is significant in recovery. If symptoms of headache, difficulty in school with memory, reading, concentration, balance, dizziness, etc. continue, asking physician for a referral to PT and ST is appropriate.
It is important to remember that each concussion is different so each treatment plan is designed for that player and their particular issues.
Make sure to really communicate with your child and let them know that it is critical for them to fully heal from their concussion prior to returning to sport. Honesty with their physician and parent is crucial to their healing.
Not giving the brain enough time to heal after a concussion can be dangerous.
Athletes who have had a concussion, at any point in their lives, have a greater chance of getting another concussion. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain heals from the first, usually within a short amount of time (hours, days, weeks), can slow recovery or increase the chances for long-term health problems. These may include changes in how the child or teen thinks, feels, and acts, as well as their ability to learn and remember.
When therapy is needed it can help to accelerate the healing process following guidelines for when and how to progress. Recommendations can be made to allow for more success in the classroom during the healing process.
The Concussion Management Team is a multidisciplinary effort that can include your physician, family, school, coach, work supervisor, athletic trainer and/or other therapies to assist you in your child’s return to their prior level of function. The team can also assist you in understanding and managing the various symptoms of concussions and to decrease the chance of prolonged symptoms such as Post-Concussion Syndrome.