Concussions and kids: 6 common myths

While we have a general understanding of concussions, did you know that children and teen athletes are more susceptible to them than older athletes?  On top of this, kids have an increased risk compared to adults for traumatic brain injury with greater severity and prolonged recovery due to their developing brains.

Unfortunately, the numbers appear to be going up for children. From 2001 to 2009, the estimated number of sports and recreation–related traumatic brain injury visits to emergency departments for those under the age of 19 increased from 153,375 to 248,418 annually, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

A concussion occurs when there is a shaking injury to the brain, either direct contact or indirect contact such as whiplash. During the acute phase of the concussion, the brain does not work correctly. This can manifest symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness or more subtle things such as not grasping directions, being mentally foggy or having difficulty concentrating, said Matthew Grady, MD, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I do think there is a lack of knowledge of how disruptive a concussion can be for a school age child whose primary responsibility is to go to school to learn. A concussion impairs an individual from doing a lot of new learning. When a child gets a concussion, school work can become very difficult. For adults who sustain a concussion, they may be able to work around their symptoms because their work demands may not include a lot of new learning.  So the implications for children with a concussion are different than adults with a concussion,” Grady said.

Grady said most adults who sustain a concussion only have symptoms for a few days. Kids take longer than adults to heal and many adults think that their experience with concussions to be the same as a child's experience. The adults do not recognize that it is normal, for example, for a 12-year-old to have concussion symptoms for 3 weeks.

Here are 6 common myths when it comes to kids and concussions from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Activities associated with the greatest estimated number of sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries resulting in ER visits varies by age group and gender, found the CDC. For kids 9 and younger, injuries most commonly occurred during playground activities or when bicycling. From 10 to 19 years, boys sustained injuries most often while playing football or bicycling, whereas females sustained injuries most often while playing soccer or basketball, or while bicycling.

“After a big collision or blow to the head, parents should pay attention to the way their child is acting.  When a child sustains a shaking injury to the head and appears to be not acting normally for him or her, a concussion should be suspected.  Things that make concussion symptoms worse include aerobic activity and mental concentration such as school work.  At this point, evaluation by a primary care doctor is indicated,” Grady said.


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