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How Do I Know if My Child has a Concussion?


concussion in child

If you’ve been listening to any healthcare or sports podcast, watching SportsCenter, or been to a pre-season meeting for your child’s sport you’ve probably heard the word concussion. Concussions have become a research priority – particularly in children playing competitive sports – due to their concerning long-term consequences. It’s common for parents to sit on the sidelines of their child’s game, growing a little more nervous every Saturday. Part of the unease stems from the unknown. Here is what you need to know about concussions.

How do you get a concussion?

A concussion is considered a mild brain injury that occurs when a head impact causes the brain to quickly move back and forth inside the skull. A concussion can injure brain cells and disrupt chemical and hormone release in the brain. These changes can have physical, cognitive, and emotional impacts on someone within seconds, minutes, or hours.

What are the signs of a concussion?

  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Feeling sluggish and foggy
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Altered emotional state (emotional, anxious, depressed)
  • Altered sleep patterns (insomnia or hypersomnia)

Are there different types of concussions?

As symptoms vary between people, concussions have been classified into three different categories: physiologic, vestibular, and cervicogenic. Everyone is impacted differently by a concussion, and they may have symptoms from multiple categories, but one is often primary. Identifying the type of concussion that someone has will determine which form of treatment will be most effective for them.

Physiologic concussion

This type of concussion is caused by an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system which oversees the fight or flight response. It may cause someone to have an altered heart rate response at rest or during physical or mental exertion.

If your child has this type of concussion, they may experience symptoms with any activity causes their heart rate to increase such as walking the dog, running at practice, or taking a test (mental exertion counts).

Vestibular concussion

This type of concussion is caused by reduced functioning of the vestibular and visual systems, impairing a child’s ability to determine where their body is in space.

If your child has this type of concussion, they may have difficulty with reading, focusing, driving, or viewing a screen. They commonly report symptoms of dizziness and vertigo.

Cervicogenic

This type of concussion typically occurs with a whiplash-like injury causing increased strain on the muscle and ligaments in and around the neck.

If your child has this type of concussion, they may complain of dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, and headaches.

Regardless of the type of concussion, research shows that sitting in a dark room and resting is an ineffective way to rehab after a concussion. Current research supports an early return to graded exercise, which is associated with faster recovery and an earlier return to sport compared to rest and wait.

What should I do if I think my child has a concussion?

If you suspect that your child has a concussion, it is pivotal they are examined by a physician and physical therapist that is familiar with treating concussions to optimize recovery. If you are unsure, contact your local PT solutions clinic to schedule an appointment. Your child’s health is our priority.

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