While your children may idolize those hard hits on the gridiron and big plays on the field by watching their favorite professional athletes perform, it’s important for kids and parents alike to recognize the potential dangers surrounding concussions and how to identify one.

Kids and concussions

Kid Football

Between contact sports and playing with friends, the risk of injury and concussion for kids looms as a worry for parents.

A concussion is an injury to the brain that temporarily changes how the brain normally works. It is usually caused by a direct blow or jolt to the head, face, or body with an “impulsive force” transmitted to the head. Signs and symptoms of a concussion can include dizziness, headache, vomiting, confusion, acting dazed, forgetting what happened before or after the injury, and/or loss of consciousness. A person does not need to be “knocked out” or lose consciousness to have a concussion. Other words or terms for a concussion include mild traumatic brain injury (mild TBI) and mild closed-head injury.

While serious problems after a concussion are rare, it’s important to know that they may occur. In the first 1-2 days after the injury, you should watch your child very carefully. After the first 24 hours, you can give acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headaches, but no other medications should be given at this time without a doctor’s approval. Common problems seen after a concussion are listed below:

  • Physical: Headaches, sick to stomach, dizziness, low energy level, trouble with vision, bothered by light, sleeping problems
  • Thinking (cognitive): Slowed thinking, trouble paying attention, difficulty remembering, acting like “in a fog,” easily confused, school performance suffers
  • Behavioral (emotional): Irritability or grouchy, easily upset or frustrated, nervousness, sadness, acting without thinking, personality changes

In case your child is faced with a concussion, here’s what you can do to help after medical treatment:

  • Have your child rest. Doing too much too soon after a concussion can make problems worse. In the first days after a concussion, don’t expect too much from your child. He or she will probably need lots of “down time” to rest and relax.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep and eats properly. Some children will need more sleep than usual. Allowing naps during the day and making sure they get plenty of sleep at night should help. You should also make sure your child is eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water.
  • Be patient. After a concussion, your child might seem cranky, more easily upset, or more tired and forgetful. This behavior is probably being caused by the concussion. Try to be patient and understanding when this happens.

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About The Author 

Scott Allyn earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Exercise Science from Wake Forest University in 2000 and his Masters of Education in Athletic Training from Old Dominion University in 2003.  In the past, Scott has served as the Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Salina Rattlers of the International Basketball Association as well as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Peninsula Pilots baseball team of the Coastal Plains league.  Scott is currently the Athletic Training Coordinator for Sentara Healthcare on the Peninsula and manages two Sentara Therapy Centers in Hampton and Newport News.  In his spare time, Scott enjoys exercising, music, camping, and movies. He is an assistant instructor in Gracie Jiu Jitsu at Bushin Martial Arts Academy in Williamsburg, Va.