4 things to do when you see signs of a concussion (2/3)

Part 2 of 3

This post is by Paige Decker from the The Invisible Injury. In November of 2013, while playing for Yale’s Women’s Ice Hockey Team, she suffered a head injury that then only seemed minor. What she couldn’t have predicted then was that the next 22 months (and counting) would consist of a battle with a concussion so severe in its symptoms that it would go on to change her life forever.

As a parent, it’s your job to protect your kids and keep them safe, so what are you supposed to do when you see signs of a concussion?

In this blog post, we will discuss what you as a parent can do from the sidelines.

1. Educate yourself

As a first step, it is important that you learn the ins and outs of what a concussion is, so you can be ready to act when you see signs of a concussion. Once you have a handle on these concepts, we recommend that you sit down and discuss them with your children.

Signs of a concussion

What is a concussion?

  • A concussion is a blow to the head that produces countless physical and cognitive symptoms.

What are the signs of a concussion

  • Concussion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fogginess, blurred vision, as well as light and noise sensitivity.

Am I at risk for more concussions after getting one?

  • After you suffer a concussion, you are 6 times more likely to suffer another.

What is the typical recovery timeline for concussions?

  • 85% of concussions are resolved within 7-10 days.
  • The more concussions that an individual has suffered previously, the longer the recovery can take.
  • Concussion expert Dr. Jeffery Kutcher points out that if a patient has not recovered from a concussion within two months, then they aren’t receiving the necessary care and treatment.  

What kind of cognitive damage are children susceptible to?

  • Brain tissue damage – Because the protective coating surrounding nerves (myelin) isn’t fully developed in children, their brain tissue is especially vulnerable to damage.
  • Brain trauma – Children’s brains are still in the process of developing, which can delay or prevent a full recovery.

2. Take action

Because young children’s brains are so vulnerable, it is especially important for adults to take immediate action whenever they see any signs of a concussion. Children’s brains are very susceptible to additional damage while recovering, so it is crucial that athletes be removed from contact play if there is any chance of a head injury.

Also, be aware – in some cases, an individual may not realize they are suffering from a concussion because the symptoms don’t always show up right away. Very often, athletes will also hide their symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game.

This is when it’s most important for adults to step in and be proactive.  If a young player takes a bad hit, adults must take action. It is better to be overly cautious, rather than being too lenient and potentially overlooking a serious injury. Athletes will take advantage of leniency. Step in and get the player evaluated by a licensed medical professional.

3. Encourage recovery and prevention

In our first post, we went over how rest is absolutely crucial for recovery. Once your child is fully rested, we encourage you to start with some simple exercises to prevent future injuries.

Brain injuries don’t always occur from direct hits to the head. In several cases, whiplash alone can cause a severe concussion. That means proper neck strength is critical to preventing concussions.

Concussions can occur when the brain gets jostled and slams against the inside of the skull, which can result from an unexpected impact to the body. Any type of damage to the neck and base of the skull will also perpetuate concussion symptoms well after the brain injury itself has healed.

A weak neck makes an individual more susceptible to sustaining symptoms for a prolonged period of time. A strong neck helps support the head and absorbs the effects of an outside force to the body and brain.

With this simple neck strengthening exercise shown below, athletes can begin to combat and prevent concussions. This simple exercise can be incorporated at the end of practices during a cool down stretch.

Neck strengthening exercises
Source: WebMD
  • Start this exercise by pressing against the side of your head with your hand, while pressing your head backwards against the same hand. This will initiate the muscles in your neck, causing them to tighten to prevent your head from moving.
  • Do this on the front, back, right and left sides of your head to hit every muscle group. Begin by holding each pose for 3-5 seconds and repeat for 3-5 repetitions on each side of the neck.
  • As strength is built over time, the exercise can be increased in duration, intensity and number of repetitions.

4. Seek professional help

There will be times when you’re not sure what to do and you think your child is showing signs of a concussion. Always, always, always seek the opinion of a medical professional before making assumptions. You can’t put a price on your child’s brain!  

Please see Part I or Part III of our concussion guide for further questions or contact us at [email protected].

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