The Pediatric Concussion: An Overview

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery


Overview

A concussion is a serious injury to the brain that changes its functioning, usually temporarily. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Unsteadiness
  • Nausea
  • Generalized “fogginess”

Concussions are often associated with a blow to the head, but can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. Sometimes such a brain trauma can cause a loss of consciousness, but often this is not the case. As a result, some children or teens who are suffering from concussions don't realize it.

Concussions in Kids Are Different

Although most sports injuries heal faster in kids than adults, concussions are different. Studies show that healing rates for concussion is kids are slower than in adults. Furthermore, children are at greater risk of suffering a second, more serious injury if the first concussion isn’t healed.

Treatment

If a concussion is suspected, it is important for the child to leave the field or court away from additional contact. Additional trauma prior to complete recovery could result in a serious concussion. Before returning to activity, it’s important for young athletes to have no symptoms of headache, dizziness, or light sensitivity for at least a week and to check with their physician for clearance.

Prognosis

Many athletes who suffer mild concussions will return to normal mental status and be able to return to play soon after injury, provided that all symptoms have ceased. Almost all concussions will heal over time. The main mistake that athletes, coaches, and parents make is trying to return to activity too soon.

Avoiding Head Trauma

Appropriate protective gear, especially helmets, should be worn at all times during play. Helmets should be fitted for each individual athlete and discarded if worn out. Coaches and athletes should maintain appropriate conditioning for participation in sports, especially focusing on the neck muscles, which, when strengthened, will increase the amount of force needed to cause a concussion. Better skill development, especially in soccer where heading technique is key, also reduces the frequency of concussion.

If you would like more information about the Pediatric Orthopedic Service at HSS, please visit the Physician Referral Service or call 1.877.606.1555.


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