With children heading back to school and team sports, it is an important time for parents and coaches to review proper concussion safety guidelines.
Mark Michon, 16, from Garden City, NY, knows first hand the importance of following proper protocols as he suffered two concussions while playing goalie for the Garden City travel soccer team. Last October, while trying to make a save, Mark was struck on the side of his head. At first, Mark didn’t show any symptoms and finished the game. However, later that day his head started to hurt and became swollen.
The next morning, Mark still had a headache and he went to see his neurologist, Robert A. Duarte, MD, at Northwell Health’s Concussion Program. As part of a concussion evaluation, Dr. Duarte took a detailed history and completed a neurological exam confirming that Mark suffered a concussion.
“A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that may be caused by a blow, bump or sudden jolt to the head,” said Dr. Duarte. “Most patients do not have a loss of consciousness associated with concussion. Parents and coaches play an important role in recognizing if a child is showing any signs of a concussion such as a headache, dizziness, poor balance, memory changes, changes in personality or sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with the symptoms that can occur. The more we can educate parents and coaches, the more safe children will be as they head back to school.”
In Mark’s case, once a concussion was confirmed, Dr. Duarte recommended that he maintain cognitive rest. In addition, he was advised not to return to play, including practice, until he was asymptomatic for at least one week.
After three weeks, Mark was cleared to return to play and resumed soccer last spring. Unfortunately, shortly after the season started, Mark suffered a second concussion as his head hit the goalie post and once again, suffered headache symptoms. As he did previously, Mark made an appointment with Dr. Duarte for a neurological evaluation. It was confirmed he suffered another concussion and followed post-concussion protocols.
Dr. Duarte offers five tips that parents and coaches should know about concussions:
- Know the Warning Signs: The most common complaint of concussion patients is a headache. However, there are many other symptoms of concussion which can include blurred vision, dizziness, sleep disturbances, slurred speech, memory impairment, trouble walking, nausea, vomiting and personality changes. It is important that if your child has shown one or more of the symptoms of concussion to seek medical attention so he/she can be properly evaluated. As parents, you need to trust your instincts if your child has any of the above symptoms. In general, most concussion symptoms resolve spontaneously in about 10 days from onset of injury.
- Post Concussion Evaluation is Essential: If your child is suspected of having a concussion, make sure that a post-concussion evaluation is performed by a physician educated about concussion. In general, a computed axial tomography (CAT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain is not routinely warranted for a concussion. If cognitive symptoms or functional impairment persists, a patient may undergo further evaluation, which may include neuropsychological testing.
- Physical and Cognitive Rest: The best treatment is to allow your child’s brain to recover giving the brain rest for approximately 3-5 days following a concussion. However, there is evidence that more prolonged rest may potentially impede recovery. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mental rest for children, which can be challenging as they live in a world of constant texting, watching endless hours of television, and even more, time, using a computer and playing video games. As hard as it may be for children to adhere to complete brain rest for a few days, it is believed that it may speed up the recovery from a concussion.
- Return to Play: A child who has suffered a concussion should not be allowed back on the field until they have been medically cleared and symptom-free without medications for at least one week.
- Communicate With Your Child’s School: If your child has suffered a concussion, it is important to let their teacher and principal know so they can keep an eye out if the concussion is still affecting the child’s performance in school and/or their ability to concentrate.
“Multiple concussions may result in long-term and even permanent disability and therefore should be taken very seriously,” warned Dr. Duarte. “In certain cases, a change in sport may have to be considered for the long-term good of the child. Fortunately, there is now much greater awareness of the problem and recognition of its potential harm. Clearly, we should make every effort to keep our children safe as they enjoy the sports they love.”
For more information about Northwell Health’s Concussion Program, click here or call 855-510-5110.
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System) is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer. With 21 hospitals and nearly 450 outpatient practices, we serve more than 1.8 million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond. Our 61,000 employees work to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our services in more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.