What Parents Need to Know about Concussions
August 10, 2022
Do you know what to do if you suspect your child has received a sports-related concussion?
The decisions you make can affect your child's recovery process and the length of time before he or she can return to play, says Christopher Bailey, PhD, a neuropsychologist and director of the UH Sports Medicine Concussion Center.
"Concussions can be scary but they are very treatable. It is important to know that any athlete with a suspected concussion should be removed from sport play immediately and not returned until cleared by a medical provider," Dr. Bailey says. "With concussions, we are most concerned about athletes getting a second one while they are still recovering from the first. That is what is most likely to cause bad outcomes."
All 50 states, including Ohio, now require immediate removal from sport with a suspected concussion and written clearance after a concussion is diagnosed.
Although the media tends to focus on football-related concussions, this injury can occur in many sports and activities, such as hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and even on the playground or at home.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion – also known as a mild traumatic brain injury – occurs when a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body causes the brain to move inside the skull. A concussion changes how the brain normally functions and can lead to a number of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms, including:
- Change in vision
- Light or noise sensitivity
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Changes in sleep
- Confusion and cognitive symptoms
Concussion symptoms can tell you if the athlete needs to be seen urgently (e.g. repeated vomiting, loss of consciousness, severe and worsening headache, etc.). Your doctors may order brain scans to rule out other problems, but parents should know that concussions usually don't show up on things like CT or MRI, which essentially take a picture of the brain. The brain often looks the same on tests like that even though it may not be functioning the same after a concussion.
Rest and Rehabilitation
Concussion treatment involves rest and rehabilitation, Dr. Bailey says, but the length of time and the treatments needed can vary for each person.
"It’s not usually a question about whether or not an athlete will recover from concussion, it is more a question of when," Dr. Bailey says. “Most of the treatments we do help to facilitate recovery and make it happen faster."
Education about what to avoid and how to recover is important in the early aftermath of a concussion. Usually, athletes need to rest at least for a few days and then slowly return back to school, work and sports. An athlete’s medical history, including whether they have had concussions before or if they have other medical problems can also affect how long it takes to recover.
An athlete’s recovery plan is best developed in collaboration with their physician and/or concussion specialist provider, who have the experience and training to diagnose, manage and treat sports concussions.
The concussion experts who make up UH Concussion Management Program have received national recognition and are committed to state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary concussion care that emphasizes rapid access and active treatment to get athletes back safely and quickly to doing what they love, on and off the sports field.