Schools in session, extracurricular sports activites are in full swing, and life in general keeps our families busy. On any given fully-scheduled day, kids are subject to mishaps that can result in a bump on the head. It’s important to know when a kiss and some extra TLC is enough, and when to suspect a concussion.
Dr. Paula Brathwaite, chairman of the emergency department at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, has answered some of our questions about concussions.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects the way the brain works. This injury can occur from a blow to the head but may also occur if there is injury to another part of the body that causes the brain to shake about in the skull.
What are some symptoms?
It is important to note that a person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Often there is subtle impairment in neurologic function such as confusion or memory loss that may be transient, lasting only a few minutes to hours. A person may appear disoriented, repeatedly ask the same question, or forget things that happen before the injury. Others may cry for no reason, have a vacant stare, walk off the field in the wrong direction, or even have a seizure.
What youth sports or activities seem to result in the most concussions
Many contact sports such as football, boxing, ice hockey, and rugby have the potential to result in a player suffering a concussion. However, a concussion can also occur in sports that increase the risk of fall and head injury such as gymnastics. The incidence of concussion can be as high as 20% for all athletes.
If your child experiences a blow to the head while playing a sport, how do you know whether it’s serious enough to seek medical treatment?
Some symptoms of concussion may be mild or nonspecific, the key is to know your child and seek treatment if the child does not appear to be acting like itself. Clinically, seek treatment if there is new confusion, complaint of a headache, vomiting, loss of memory for events, change in vision, loss of consciousness, or seizure. These symptoms may indicate bleeding or swelling in the brain.
Piedmont Fayette Provides Baseline Assessments for Student Athletes
“There is also a serious risk for traumatic injury if a player goes back to the game before they are ready. Even a mild blow could result in brain swelling, brain damage or even death.” – Dr. Michael Behr
As practice for middle school and high school athletics began this summer, the student athletes in Fayette County were asked to sit down at a computer and complete a 20-minute test. This was part of a program sponsored by Piedmont Fayette Hospital and approved by the Fayette County Board of Education to provide a baseline score for future concussion testing.
Called ImPACT, this neurocognitive battery of tests measures the effects of a concussion. If a concussion is suspected during the athletic season, a follow-up test is administered to see if the results have changed from the baseline.
“The test helps determine a child’s readiness to return to school or an athlete’s readiness to return to play,” said Michael Behr, MD. “Traditional radiology tests are often ineffective at identifying the functional effects of a concussion and many times clinicians have to rely on self-reports from the patients or subjective observations. This takes the guess work out of it.”
If it has been determined that an athlete has suffered a concussion, the player’s physician, team and Piedmont Fayette will work together, following an established concussion management protocol to treat the concussion.
“The short-term effects of a concussion, such as a flawed memory or trouble concentrating, can plague a young person through life,” said Dr. Behr. “There is also a serious risk for traumatic injury if a player goes back to the game before they are ready. Even a mild blow could result in brain swelling, brain damage or even death.”
Piedmont Fayette is committed to the health and safety of the community. This program will help keep student athletes safe on and off the field.