What Parents Need to Know about Concussions

Do you know what to do if you suspect your child has received a sports-related brain injury?

The decisions you make can affect your child's recovery process and the length of time before he or she can return to play, says neuropsychologist Christopher Bailey, PhD.

"This is an injury where it's important to know what to do if you get one," Dr. Bailey says. "With concussions, if you have a second one while still recovering, that is what we are most concerned will lead to bad outcomes."

What is a Concussion?

A concussion – also known as a mild traumatic brain injury – occurs when a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body causes the brain to move inside the skull. A concussion changes how the brain normally functions and can lead to a number of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms, including:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Change in vision
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Change in behavior, including with sleep or your mood
  • Confusion about basic information, such as the day of the week, who the opponent is and recent events
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

While concussions usually don't show up on a computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging, its symptoms are typically noticed right after the injury – but not with everyone.

Rest and Rehabilitation

Concussion treatment involves rest and rehabilitation, Dr. Bailey says, but the length of time and course of action can vary for each person.

"Concussions can be managed as long as steps are taken early on to prevent future injuries," Dr. Bailey says. “Unlike other sports injuries, a concussion impacts your brain and extra special care is needed."

If you continue to play while concussed, you can develop serious and long-term health consequences, which can affect learning and memory and may even lead to death, he says.

Even though specialists from pediatric sports medicine, orthopedic surgery and neuropsychology have the specialized training, experience and technology to diagnose, manage and treat sports concussions, parents should speak up if they suspect their child sustained a concussion in a game.

"Parents need to be the first-line responders and trust their gut if they suspect their child has a concussion," he says. "If she's confused or has other concussion symptoms, it's best to be conservative about it. If in doubt, sit your child out. Then see your primary care doctor or a concussion specialist before you allow her to return to play."

Although the media tends to focus on football-related concussions, this injury can occur in a variety of sports and activities, such as hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and on the playground.

There have been a number of developments in concussion management, prompting University Hospitals Sports Medicine and University Hospitals Neurological Institute to collaborate on new documentation to help coaches, parents and athletes understand what to do when a concussion is suspected.

Christopher Bailey, PhD is a neuropsychologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Bailey or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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