Getting Ahead of Head Injuries

By: Natalia Darling, PA-C 
Getting Ahead of Head Injuries; Early Signs of Concussion.
With the end of summer and return to school, the kickoff to fall sports and football season is upon us.  While for many this brings thoughts of fall weather and changing leaves, Halloween, and pumpkin themed activities and treats, medical professionals begin to think of sports safety.  One of the hottest  sports medicine topics for schools, doctors and media outlets over the  over the years  has become  concussion.  Football carries the highest risk of concussion, with soccer, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, softball and volleyball falling close behind.  Statistics show that concussion is a very common injury that is sadly NOT commonly recognized and/or reported.  It is important to be well informed regarding concussions in order to rule out more serious injury, to prevent long term side effects, facilitate the recovery process, and prevent further damage and injury.  Below we have summarized for you what a concussion is, what to do if your child has a head injury, the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and when and how to follow up with your pediatrician.
What is a concussion?  A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, but can also occur from a fall or blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.  A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that changes the way the brain normally processes and transfers information.  Scans and imaging rarely diagnose a concussion as often there is nothing physically wrong or different with the brain.  Health care professionals may describe a concussion as a “mild” brain injury because concussions are usually not life threatening, however the effects of concussion can be more serious on young developing brains.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion:  Signs and symptoms of a concussion can be present right after an injury but can also first appear hours or days after the injury. For a parent/guardian observing and interacting with their child, common signs observed include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • appearing dazed or stunned
  • appearing to be confused about an assignment or position
  • forgetfulness and forgetting instructions
  • being unsure of game, score or opponent
  • moving clumsily
  • answering questions or speaking slowly
  • mood, behavior or personality changes
  • acting more emotional
  • forgetting what happened before during or after a fall or impact

Symptoms reported by the child or athlete that may indicate a concussion:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fogginess of the mind
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to lights or noises
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, groggy
  • Feeling confused
  • Not feeling right or “feeling down”

What do I do if my child has a head injury?  If your child has a head injury while playing, during practice or a game and it is anything more than a light bump to the head, we recommend that you call us so we can help you assess the child and direct you to where you should be seen next and if your child does need to be seen and where . While waiting to be assessed, we recommend that your child rest and sit out from any physical activities.
If you are noticing any of the below red flags of a head injury call 911 or go to the emergency department.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Worsening headache
  • Seizures
  • Neck pain
  • Looking very drowsy, hard or unable to be awakened
  • Repeated vomiting (more than once)
  • Slurred speech
  • Cant recognize people/places
  • Increasing confusion
  • Weakness/numbness in arms or legs
  • Unusual behavior changes
  • Increasing irritability

Has your child sustained a mild head injury or do you suspect that may have a concussion? Call us at 301 279 6750.
Download our FREE concussion handout.