Concussions and Head Injuries: What You Need to Know
Concussions or serious head injuries always can happen in a flash. It’s important to know when to seek medical attention.
- Your six-month-old rolled off the bed
- Your “almost walking” one-year-old just nosedived into the coffee table
- You barely finished taking a picture of your adorable kids in his Peewee football uniform and helmet, and now, against all “non-contact” plans, he crashed helmets with another child
- Your teenager made a fabulous soccer goal, fell backward and hit the ground really hard.
What do these scenarios have in common? They all have the potential for head injury and concussion.
While there are many existing articles on sports-related concussions, as a triage nurse for KFPP, I’m focusing more on the nuts and bolts of “What can I do?” rather than list symptoms. For an excellent review of symptoms of concussion from the perspective of the observer and the athlete, see the article “Sports-Related Concussion: Understanding the risks, signs and symptoms” from the AAP.
Prevent what you can:
- Don’t leave a baby alone on a bed or changing table—even for a few seconds.
- Buy a couple swimming pool foam “noodles,” cut them in pieces, and pad furniture edges where you can.
- Look at your furniture and its placement with the eyes of a child who sees a chair set against a counter (by the cabinet that just might contain cookies on the top shelf) as an irresistible climbing challenge.
- Make sure sports gear—whether it be biking, baseball or football—fits properly. This tends to be paid more attention in older children. Make sure your pee wee can’t turn his head inside his helmet. It may look cute, but it can be dangerous.
Have a plan in case of emergency:
- Anytime your child is participating in organized sports, talk to those in charge to find out the plan in case of injury. How will they assess the child? Are they familiar with concussion scoring tools? Can they explain them to you? Will they use them and abide by them? Will your child be reassured that s/he is still part of the team while recovering?
- Talk with your older child. Make sure they know that it is IMPORTANT and OKAY to speak up if they don’t feel well after hitting their head, and that “toughing it out” is more likely to result in spending MORE time on the bench. Use names like Dwyane Wade, Kris Bryant and Mia Hamm, who have all spent time recuperating from concussions and protected both their careers and their risk of brain damage. Enlist the coach to help with this—after all, you already laid your groundwork with this before you let them play, right?