Concussions in School Sports: What Parents Need to Know | Iredell Health System

As a parent, watching your child or teen enjoy their favorite sport can be both exciting and fulfilling. In addition to keeping them physically fit, sports can teach your child valuable life lessons like teamwork, respect, and commitment. Unfortunately, sport comes with the risk of injury.

If you’re the parent of a child who plays a contact sport like football, concussions may be high on your list of concerns.

“A concussion is one of the most common injuries in sport. Some obvious examples of concussions include football players’ heads hitting each other or the ground during a tackle, or basketball players hitting their heads when standing up for a rebound. Some less commonly recognized concussions occur in other sports, such as a football player heading a ball or a wrestler hitting the mat,” said Anthony Elkins, a physician at Iredell Primary Care.

It is important to note that concussions can also occur in non-contact sports, such as tennis or gymnastics.

Although most coaches recognize the signs of a concussion during a game or in practice, you know your child best. It’s your job as a parent to help spot these symptoms on and off the field and make sure your child gets the care they need.

So what is a concussion, how do you know if your child has one, and what are your next steps if they do?

Understanding Concussions
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. It happens when the brain is shaken into the skull. This is usually caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head, but any sudden force that changes the movement of the head, neck, or body can cause a concussion.

“Concussions are not just a bump on the head that causes a headache and resolves without consequences. A true concussion is actually a brain injury, with damage to neurons (nerve cells in the brain) that are often irreversible,” Elkins said.

Although most concussions are mild, severe concussions can cause bleeding or bruising in the brain.

“The direction of the force, the size of the object hitting the head, the part of the head that experiences the impact, and the presence or absence of protective equipment can all influence the severity of a concussion” , Elkins said.

Warning signs and symptoms
Some concussions may be obvious, especially if you witness the incident. Others, however, can occur after a mild or unrecognized impact, and the symptoms can be difficult to spot.

“Most often symptoms of a concussion appear soon after impact, but some develop hours or days later,” Elkins said.

Since every concussion can be a little different, the signs can vary from child to child. However, the most obvious signs of a child having a concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • brain fog
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes (blurred or double vision)
  • Unsteady gait

A child who has suffered a concussion may also simply report that he “doesn’t feel well” after a bump, blow or jolt.

More subtle symptoms include personality or behavior changes, slowed reaction times, or emotional changes.

If your child has any of the signs below, it may indicate a more serious head injury and may require emergency attention. These signs include:

  • Loss of consciousness, even for a short time
  • Loss of neurological function, such as inability to move a limb or loss of vision
  • Vomiting
  • Incontinence
  • Mental status changes, such as inability to stay awake

“Most concussion symptoms last from several days to several weeks, but vary depending on the nature of the injury, the presence of protective equipment, the athlete’s underlying medical conditions and history of concussion. concussions,” Elkins said.

If your child gets hit
If you watch a game or practice and notice that your child has suffered a head injury, you should make sure they are removed from the game.

“Any athlete who sustains an obvious head injury or exhibits neurological symptoms such as acting confused, forgetting games, or walking with an unsteady gait, should be removed from play and assessed on the sidelines by medical personnel or a certified athletic trainer.” , Elkins said.

If qualified personnel are not available on the sideline, the child should be taken to a medical facility for evaluation.

According to Elkins, if you suspect your child has suffered a concussion and was not assessed at the time of the injury, you should take them to their primary care provider, an emergency care department, or the emergency room. urgency for evaluation.

Treating a concussion
If your child has a concussion, he will need to take a few days to rest and relax to help his brain heal.

“Initially, a period of “brain rest” is recommended, during which no physical or mental exertion occurs. This may mean resting in bed or on the couch. There should be no reading, homework, watching TV or looking at electronics,” Elkins said.

You need to make sure your child is well hydrated during this healing time. If he has headaches or body aches, your child can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve symptoms. However, severe symptoms should be treated by a medical professional.

Back to school
To prepare your child for school and play, a gradual increase in mental and physical activity is needed to see if the child develops symptoms.

All schools in North Carolina are required to have a concussion protocol outlining guidelines for returning to school after a concussion. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association enforces the “Return-to-Learn” and “Return-to-Play” protocols.

Back to learning
According to Elkins, the return-to-learn protocol can include a shortened school day, more time to complete homework, quieter alternate environments, and the use of earplugs. This also includes avoiding tests, as this will not assess your child’s true knowledge.

Back to game
The return to play protocol generally involves low-intensity activity such as walking. If no symptoms are felt, your child can try moderate-intensity activities like jogging. If your child has no symptoms, they can move on to high-intensity activities like interval training, sport-specific agility drills, and non-contact activities.

“Return to play protocols exist to not only ensure that a concussed athlete can play safely, but also to prevent more serious brain damage in the event of a new head injury,” Elkins said.

To further explain the importance of the return to play protocol, Elkins compares these guidelines to a wound on your skin.

“For example, imagine an open wound on the skin. If the wound is covered and protected, healing will occur more quickly and completely; however, if the wound has been scraped, picked, or rubbed repeatedly, it will take longer to heal, often with a larger scar.

“It’s the same as healing injured brain tissue. That’s why it’s critical that no concussed athlete return to play while still showing symptoms. The brain is not yet fully healed” , he explains.

In order for your child to return to sport, a healthcare professional must approve and sign your child’s return to play form. As a parent, you must also sign the form to give your consent.

Concussion Prevention
Repeated concussions can lead to serious complications, longer recovery times, and even permanent symptoms.

“Every concussion is an opportunity to learn how to prevent a future one,” Elkins said.

In this way, injury prevention is just as important a skill as the sport itself. Make sure your child uses the correct techniques when playing to avoid injury, such as learning how to properly and safely tackle in soccer or how to “steer” the ball in soccer.

You should also make sure your child always wears the proper protective gear. Although helmets and pads do not eliminate the possibility of a concussion, they can reduce the likelihood.

Learn more
Although most concussions are mild and have temporary symptoms, some can be more serious and cause long-term damage.

“All parents of student-athletes need to be alert to the signs of a concussion. Many athletes are conditioned by their coaches and teammates to simply “walk away” and “get up!” However, parents are their child’s best advocates. They should stay involved with their child’s coaches and ensure proper attention is given to injured children,” Elkins said.

Elkins practices at Iredell Primary Care in Mooresville and is accepting new patients. He treats patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly. While Elkins can handle all of your primary care needs, they also offer specialist sports medicine consultations. If your child suffers an injury on or off the court, Elkins can help. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Anthony Elkins, please call the office at 980-435-0406.

Comments are closed.