Concussions: Prevention and Detection
What is concussion?
A concussion is a head injury. It occurs when a blow to the head is strong enough that the cushioning provided by the cerebrospinal fluid is not enough to protect the brain from rotating in the skull or hitting the inside of the skull, damaging the brain. Although concussion is the least severe form of brain injury, it can be dangerous, and even one concussion can cause long-term health problems. It can also be hard to tell if someone has a concussion or a more serious head injury without doing imaging studies such as a CT scan or MRI. If you suspect concussion, it is important to see a qualified physician.
How can I prevent it?
It is important is to always use the proper safety equipment, including high-quality well-fitting helmets that are appropriate to each sport. The kind of helmet you need when riding a motorcycle or ATV (which is statistically very dangerous) is not the same as you need riding a bike, playing football, skateboarding or skiing. Drive carefully, wear a seatbelt and make sure your child has the proper safety seat. If your child engages in sports, talk with your child’s coach to see what he or she is doing to avoid concussion and recognize it.
Head injury is very common in young children. Although people once thought concussions were no big deal, doctors know better now. Even fatal diseases like Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease have been linked to multiple concussions. As your child learns to crawl, walk, run and climb, help them find safe ways to explore. And if your child does hit his or her head, see a pediatrician, even if emergency care isn’t necessary.
How can I tell if someone has a concussion, and when should I seek medical attention?
Concussion can be very serious and suspected concussion always warrants a visit to the doctor. If you are ever in doubt about someone’s safety following a head injury, call 911. Absolutely dial for an ambulance if the individual is unconscious, having seizures, is vomiting repeatedly, has weakness on one side of the body, can’t wake-up from sleep following concussion or has eyes that are unequally dilated.
I also suggest seeking immediate medical attention if the individual is sleepy or confused, vomiting, very dizzy, or is experiencing any numbness, slurred speech or has serious neck pain or headache, particularly if the pain is getting worse. If your young child is behaving strangely, is listless or won’t nurse or eat, seek immediate medical attention.
Even after receiving medical attention, it’s important to monitor the person closely for at least a day or so. If symptoms don’t approve within a week, make another appointment. Many people underestimate the danger of concussion. After a concussion, it is important to take time for rest and avoid any activities that could lead to another head injury.
Good rule for coaches: “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out”