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Concussions – What Parents Need to Know

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Image: CDC

I recently blogged about a new test to assess concussion in athletes. Most parents of school athletes, like me, are aware of the risk of concussion that our children face. However, concussion doesn’t just happen to school athletes. Children can take a spill, knock his/her head, and get a concussion in any number of ways at school, on the playground, or elsewhere.

Here is some helpful information for parents from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Even what seems to be a mild bump to the head can be serious.

Concussions can have a more serious effect on a young, developing brain and need to be addressed correctly.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after an injury or may not appear or be noticed until hours or days after the injury. It is important to watch for changes in how your child or teen is acting or feeling, if symptoms are getting worse, or if s/he just “doesn’t feel right.” Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.

If your child or teen reports one or more of the symptoms of concussion listed below, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away. Children and teens are among those at greatest risk for concussion.

Image: Signs & Symptoms of Concussion

What should I do if my child or teen has a concussion?

  1. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion can determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to normal activities, including physical activity and school (concentration and learning activities).
  2. Help them take time to get better. If your child or teen has a concussion, her or his brain needs time to heal. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while s/he is recovering from a concussion. Exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games may cause concussion symptoms (such as headache or tiredness) to reappear or get worse. After a concussion, physical and cognitive activities—such as concentration and learning—should be carefully managed and monitored by a health care professional.
  3. Together with your child or teen, learn more about concussions. Talk about the potential long-term effects of concussion and the dangers of returning too soon to normal activities (especially physical activity and learning/concentration). For more information about concussion and free resources, visit: www.cdc.gov/Concussion.

Image: Danger Signs

How can I help my child return to school safely after a concussion?

Help your child or teen get needed support when returning to school after a concussion. Talk with your child’s teachers, school nurse, coach, speech-language pathologist, or counselor about your child’s concussion and symptoms. Your child may feel frustrated, sad, and even angry because s/he cannot return to recreation and sports right away, or cannot keep up with schoolwork. Your child may also feel isolated from peers and social networks. Talk often with your child about these issues and offer your support and encouragement. As your child’s symptoms decrease, the extra help or support can be removed gradually. Children and teens who return to school after a concussion may need to:

  • Take rest breaks as needed
  • Spend fewer hours at school
  • Be given more time to take tests or complete assignments
  • Receive help with schoolwork, and/or
  • Reduce time spent reading, writing, or on the computer