It’s a brisk fall afternoon. You’re sitting in the bleachers, watching your son’s JV football game. In the scuffle during a play he hits his head on the turf. You see him get up a bit slowly, but he shakes it off and lines up for the next play. Should you be concerned?
It is estimated there are 3 million head injuries each year related to contact sports, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 years, it is second only to motor vehicle accidents as the cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Concussions can be caused by mild or more severe blows to the head. They may or may not involve loss of consciousness. Recently, more attention has been placed on recognizing and treating concussions earlier to decrease the risk of long-term neurological damage.
The Signs of a Concussion
Early signs of a concussion include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Vision changes
- Unequally sized pupils
- Lack of awareness of surroundings
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Lack of coordination
If your child is injured and shows any of the above signs, he or she should stop participating in the sports activity immediately. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association requires that any student athlete who sustains a possible concussion or any loss of consciousness be removed immediately from play. A medical evaluation is required to determine if a concussion was sustained. If it’s determined that your child did have a concussion, he or she must be symptom-free for one week before he or she can return to play.
You should seek immediate medical attention if your child’s symptoms persist for more than 10 minutes. If the symptoms are mild, such as mild headache, dizziness, nausea without vomiting or loss of memory for a few minutes, watch to see if the symptoms worsen. The physicians at eMedical Urgent Care can help determine if further care is needed.
When to Go to the Emergency Department
You should bring your child to the nearest emergency department if the injury involves:
- Large cuts
- Prolonged loss of consciousness
- Severe headaches
- Inability to walk
- Slurred speech
What to Expect After a Concussion
A few days to a few weeks after having a concussion your child might experience:
- A persistent, low-grade headache
- Poor attention and concentration
- Memory issues
- Anxiety and/or a depressed mood
- Trouble sleeping
The recovery period for concussions can vary from patient to patient. Some may develop “post-concussion syndrome,” which can last weeks or months and includes chronic headaches, dizziness and nausea. If your child sustains a more severe concussion, he or she should be seen by a neurologist in addition to your primary physician to manage ongoing care.