I’m not a fan of football, so when my boys started playing the sport I could barely watch the games. As a mom, I cringed every time my kids locked helmets with another player. Concussions are common in football and often under-diagnosed, but at the time, I knew very little about concussions–I was more worried about my kid breaking a bone.
When my oldest son was a junior, he was tackled by a fellow teammate during a practice drill. Fortunately, the coach pulled him off the field and did a quick memory test which showed impaired cognitive function. His primary physician diagnosed a mild concussion. A “brain sprain,” we were told. A blow to the head disrupts the normal brain functions. They explained to keep an eye on him and to take a two week break from football. Our son recovered quickly with no known problems.
A few years later, I experienced a concussion of my own. I took a fall while barefoot water skiing and when I tumbled to a stop, I found myself floating in the lake and I had no clue where I was or how I got there. Then I saw the boat coming toward me and realized I had just temporarily blanked out. I shrugged it off and went for another run. The second fall put me in a state of temporary amnesia. I have no memory of the next 40 minutes, but according to my coach, I skied another run, and at that point, he realized I had a concussion. I finally “came to” in the boat a half hour later. I continued to ski for he next couple of days not realizing the danger of repeated blows to the head. Fortunately, I recovered fully.
Concussions are often difficult to diagnose at times, but even more so with children because they may not be able to communicate their symptoms. Symptoms range from mild to severe. If your child has sustained a blow to the head or a violent shaking, keep alert to behavior changes, irritability, excessive crying, and long bouts of sleeping.
Here are some other signs of a concussion:
- Blurred vision, seeing “stars” or jagged pieces, out of focus
- Sick to stomach feeling, nausea, or vomiting
- Feeling out of balance, dizzy, or losing balance
- Slow to respond to questions, slurred speech, or unable to answer questions
- Amnesia or loss of consciousness
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
- Can’t tolerate or bothered by bright lights or loud sounds
- Fatigue, difficulty rousing from sleep, dazed look
When in doubt, seek the advice of a physician. The most important key to healing a concussion is to rest. This means both physical and mental rest immediately following the diagnosis. The duration varies depending on the severity of the concussion and medical advice. Sustaining a second concussion on top of the first one can lead to even more serious outcomes or permenant brain damage.
Of course, as parents, we can’t protect our kids in every situation. But then again, you can purchase a case of bubble wrap and try that…