Memorial Regional Health: Fall sports season is concussion season
For the Craig Press
It’s fall sports season, which also means it’s concussion season.
If your child bonks their head or twists their neck in sports practice or a game, how do you know if it was nothing to worry about — or if they might have a concussion? And if they do have a concussion, what should you do (or not do) about it?
Memorial Regional Health Physical Therapist Ryan Shawcroft recently completed a certification in Vestibular Rehab and Concussion Management. Here’s his concussion advice for parents of young athletes.
What is a concussion?
“There are many definitions, but in general a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury,” Shawcroft said. “It happens when the head contacts the ground or another hard or moving surface, or when the head is jolted by whiplash. This results in a temporary loss of normal brain function.”
If the brain bounces or twists inside the skull, this can cause chemical reactions in the brain that may stretch or damage brain cells. Even a minor head bump can cause a concussion.
What are concussion symptoms?
Concussions are invisible, Shawcroft said. Even when a CT scan or MRI is done, which are sometimes necessary to rule out bleeding in the brain, a concussion won’t show up. Instead, concussions are diagnosed by their symptoms.
“Parents should watch for headaches, fogginess, difficulty concentrating or memory loss,” Shawcroft said. “Other concussion symptoms include loss of balance, incoordination, light or noise sensitivity, double or blurry vision, nausea, a lower exercise tolerance and trouble falling or staying asleep. And sometimes people with a concussion will simply say that they ‘don’t feel right’ or ‘feel bad.’”
What if my child has concussion symptoms?
First, it’s OK for children with possible concussions to sleep, Shawcroft said. In fact, rest is exactly what their brains need to heal.
Second, take them to their primary-care provider as soon as you can.
Your child’s health care provider will determine if they have a concussion and if so, what the next steps should be. Short-term physical therapy can be an effective way to make sure they heal as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
“We want to get kids with concussion symptoms into treatment as soon as we can,” Shawcroft said. “Their brains need to heal, so it’s important for them to be honest about what they’re feeling. If they have any concussion symptoms, we find out what may be exacerbating them, and we work on desensitization together.”
How can we prevent further injury?
It’s important to make sure a child’s concussion symptoms have fully cleared up before they’re exposed to the potential for another concussion.
“Kids who get a second concussion on top of a first concussion that hasn’t fully healed yet can end up with a really severe head injury,” Shawcroft said. “So it’s important to take concussions seriously and get them evaluated and treated as soon as possible for as long as needed.”
To make an appointment with a pediatrician or family-care provider to discuss your child’s health, including possible concussion symptoms, call one of the numbers below to schedule an appointment:
- Craig Medical Clinic — 970-826-2400
- Craig Specialty Clinic (Dr. Kipe) — 970-824-3252
- Steamboat Signature Specialty Clinic — 970-826-8440
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