Fall sports have started and it’s time to get those kids in for their annual Well-child exams/sports physicals (please call their doctors office today if this hasn’t happened yet). We want to make sure all kids and adolescents are healthy enough to play sports and that they continue to stay healthy throughout the school year.
Injuries can happen to any child at any time and a concussion can happen in just about all sports. Statistically, girls are at a higher risk of suffering concussions in their chosen sports than boys are; however, concussions can impact any student athlete. Striving for scholarships, championships, and social acceptance drives kids to make a choice about continuing to play when injured, despite their lack of readiness. It is your job as a parent, and our job as your child’s Doctor, to convince our kids that if they have not recovered 100% from a head injury then they are not ready to jump back into the game. Going back early places them at increased risk for severe bodily injury, permanent brain injury, or, in rare cases, even death. If your child has had a head injury and is having any symptoms at all, please get them in to their doctor for an assessment.
Concussion is a clinical diagnosis and you do not have to be KNOCKED OUT to have a concussion…this only happens 10% of the time. The most common symptoms to develop after injury to the head are headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, disorientation, confusion, and loss of coordination. Severe symptoms can result in changes to your child’s personality, grades or academic effort, and their friendships.
There are 4 R’s for concussion to consider:
- Recognition- You have to recognize that a concussion has occurred.
- Remove- You need to remove that athlete from the risk of repeat injury.
- Recovery- Athletes need time to be symptom free before going back to activity.
- Return- To cognitive activity as well as return to play.
Diagnosis after injury should be done by your child’s primary care provider so they can follow up during and after the recovery period. There are many tools and tests people use to diagnose a concussion, but the symptoms should be followed closely by a medical provider to help prevent re-injury as well as to educate the athlete about risks of a second concussion. This typically results in worse symptoms, much longer recovery times and potential removal from the activity entirely. Missing a week for 100% recovery is certainly better than missing the entire season due to repeat injury.
With a single concussion, 85% of high school athletes have full symptom recovery within 2-3 weeks. When an athlete is highly symptomatic they should take a couple of days (48 hours) off from school. Their doctor can help make a plan as to the speed of their return to school and sports based in the extent of the concussion and symptoms. Returning to light aerobic activity that does not put the athlete at risk for repeat injury can help maintain fitness and mental health during the recovery period. In the past, athletes were strongly advised to avoid all physical activity until recovery had reached 100%. But new evidence shows that physical activity can help with brain growth and repair while doing nothing may prolong the recovery time.
So when should your child stop their activity or be disqualified from sports?
Three concussions in a lifetime requires having a serious conversation about risks associated with repeat head injury. Things that should disqualify your child from continued activity are increasing length of or severity of symptoms, concussions caused by less trauma then the first or second, decreased time in between concussion or prolonged post-concussive symptoms.
Remembering to help your child place their overall health and wellness above their sports performance may just help keep them playing sports for years to come.