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Signs of Concussion in Children and Young Athletes

September 03, 2019

Posted in Sports,Injury Prevention,Parenting,Neurology and Neurosurgery

Fall sports are in full swing. While sports are fun for athletes and fans, there’s always a risk of injury, whether it's the quarterback who takes a hard sack, the soccer player who heads the ball a little too hard, or the cheerleader whose tumble doesn't end as planned. Any impact that affects the head – even one that isn't direct – puts kids at risk for a concussion.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is caused by a bump or a blow to the head. Even a mild blow can be a serious matter.

How common are concussions?

  • The Centers for Disease Control reports that 283,000 children in the U.S. seek care for sports-related concussions each year.
  • Approximately half of all concussions go undiagnosed.
  • One in five athletes who play contact sports will sustain a concussion this year.
  • In cheerleading, around 19% of sports injuries are to the head or neck.

What are some symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms of a concussion may last for days or weeks. Your young athlete may have a concussion if he/she:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is easily confused
  • Forgets instructions
  • Vomits
  • Moves slowly or clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events before or after the hit or fall
  • Develops new problems in school, including changes in concentration and behavior

What to do if you think your child has a concussion

If you believe your child has a concussion, seek medical attention right away. The CDC has clear guidelines for assessing and treating concussions. A health care professional will follow standardized assessment procedures, looking for warning signs, and asking questions about pre-existing conditions. Your child's caregiver will provide detailed instructions for home care and recommendations for when your child can return to school on a modified or full schedule.

When can a child return to play after a concussion?

The most critical home-care instruction: follow the “return-to-play” protocol as instructed by your child’s physician. The brain needs time to heal after a concussion. Children who resume activity or begin playing too soon after an injury are at higher risk for another concussion. Second or multiple concussions can cause permanent brain damage or even death. After medical clearance, return to play should follow a step-wise protocol with provisions for delayed return to play based upon any lingering signs or symptoms.

Arkansas Children’s Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic

The Arkansas Children’s Sports Medicine department is staffed by pediatric orthopedic experts ready to treat your developing athlete’s sports-related injury and return them to school and play as safely and quickly as possible. Families benefit from a team that includes physicians, neuropsychologists, athletic trainers and social workers who follow athletes until they have fully recovered.

If your young athlete sustains an injury on Friday night, don’t wait until Saturday to see a specialist. The Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic is open from 10 p.m. – midnight every Friday night through November 15.  Learn more here.


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