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At Cook Children's, we know that diagnosing and treating head injuries in children and teens requires special skills, and that's what sets us apart. Our dedicated concussion team is here to ensure that your child recovers as quickly, and fully, as possible.
A concussion is a brain injury that causes temporary changes in the way the brain works. You might think they happen when someone is knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen without losing consciousness as well.
The skull helps protect the brain from injury. Spinal fluid cushions the brain inside the skull. A blow or jolt to the head can hurt the brain directly or make the brain move around and bang up against the hard bone of the skull. This changes the signals between nerves, which causes concussion symptoms.
Most concussions in kids and teens happen while playing sports. The risk is highest for kids who play football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey.
Concussions also be the result of:
Someone with a concussion might be knocked out (this is called a loss of consciousness). But a person doesn't have to get knocked out to have a concussion.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion include:
Symptoms of a concussion usually happen right away, but can show up hours or days after an injury. A teen with a concussion may:
If your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, call your health care provider or go to the ER if your child:
These could be signs of a serious concussion, and your child might need treatment in a hospital.
To diagnose a concussion, the health care provider will:
If a head injury happens while someone is playing sports, a coach or athletic trainer may do sideline concussion testing. This is when a trained person does a few simple tests after a head injury to help decide if the athlete needs immediate medical care. An athlete who has a head injury must stop playing and see a doctor before returning to play.
Many schools or sports leagues use baseline concussion tests. Baseline testing uses computer programs to test a player's normal brain function. It checks attention, memory, and speed of thinking. Doctors compare testing after an injury with baseline results to see how someone is recovering.
Concussions do not show up on a CAT scan or MRI. So, the doctor may not order a brain scan for a mild concussion. A CAT scan or MRI might be done to look for other problems if someone:
Treatment will depend on how mild or sever your child’s concussion is.
Each person with a concussion heals at their own pace. It's important to find a balance between doing too much and too little.
At first, your child needs to cut back on physical activities and those that require a lot of concentration. Then, he or she can start trying these activities again. Symptoms don't have to be completely gone for your child to add activities. But if symptoms interfere with an activity, your child should take a break from it. He or she can try it again after a few minutes or longer, or try a less strenuous version of the activity.
Help your child follow these steps:
Light Activity (usually within a few days to a week after the concussion)
Moderate Activity (usually about a week after the concussion)
Regular Activity (a month or more after the concussion)
Student athletes must wait until their health care provider says it's safe before returning to sports. This means that they:
Hurrying back to sports and other physical activities puts teens at risk for second-impact syndrome. This is when someone gets another head injury before the concussion has healed. Although very rare, second-impact syndrome can cause lasting brain damage and even death. Almost every state has rules about when teens with concussions can start playing sports again.
People are much more likely to get a concussion if they've had one before. So preventing concussions is very important after a head injury. To prevent another concussion:
If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4405.