18. Part II: I Think My Kid Has Concussion Symptoms - Now What?

1. Educate players and parents about concussion symptoms

In order to help children understand what a concussion is and why it is important to take them seriously, adults must educate themselves. After you’ve read these over, discuss them with your children.

  • What is a concussion? A concussion is a blow to the head that produces a myriad of physical and cognitive symptoms, including headache, dizziness, fogginess, blurred vision, light and noise sensitivity.

  • Am I at risk for more concussions after getting one? After you suffer a concussion, you are 6 times more likely to suffer another.

  • What is the typical recovery timeline for concussions?

    • 85% of concussions resolve within 7-10 days.

    • The more concussions an individual has suffered, the longer recovery can take.

    • Dr. Jeffery Kutcher points out that if a patient has not recovered from his or her concussion within two months, then they aren’t getting the correct care and treatment.  

  • What kind of damage are children susceptible to?

    • Because the protective coating surrounding nerves (myelin) isn’t fully developed in children, their brain tissue is especially vulnerable to damage.

    • Children’s brains are also more susceptible to trauma because they are still in the process of developing, which can delay or prevent a full recovery.

2.    Be observant

Because of the vulnerability of young children’s brains, it is especially important for adults to take action if a concussion is suspected.  A child’s brain is very susceptible to further damage while recovering from a concussion, so it is crucial that athletes are removed from contact play immediately if a concussion is suspected.

Be aware - in some cases, an individual may not realize they are concussed because symptoms don’t always show up right away. It is also very common for athletes to hide their symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game.

This is when it’s most important for adults to step in and be proactive.  If a young player takes a bad hit, adults must act. It is better to be cautious rather than lenient. Athletes will take advantage of leniency. Step in and get the player evaluated by a licensed medical professional.

3.    Initiate simple, routine neck strengthening exercises for concussion prevention

Proper neck strength is critical to preventing concussions. Brain injuries don’t always occur from direct hits to the head. They can occur when the brain gets jostled and slams against the inside of the skull, which can result from an unanticipated impact to the body. In these cases, whiplash alone can cause a severe concussion. Additionally, damage to the neck and base of the skull can continue to perpetuate concussion symptoms well after the brain injury has healed.

Whereas a weak neck makes an individual more susceptible to this, a strong neck helps support the head and absorb the effects of an outside force to the body and brain. With the simple neck strengthening exercise shown below, athletes can begin to combat and prevent concussions:

Start by pressing against the side of your head with your hand, while pressing your head back against your hand. This will initiate the muscles in your neck and cause them to tighten to prevent your head from moving. Do this on the front, back, right and left sides of your head to hit every muscle group. Begin by holding each pose for 3-5 seconds and repeat for 3-5 repetitions on each side of the neck. As strength is built over time, the exercise can be increased in duration, intensity and number of repetitions. This simple exercise can be incorporated at the end of practices during a cool down stretch.

4. When in doubt, always seek professional opinions

There will be times when you’re not sure what to do. Always seek the opinion of a medical professional before proceeding and making assumptions. You can’t put a price on your child’s brain!