Everything Parents Need to Know about Concussions


By: , – Lambeth Hochwald, Family Circle
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Maybe you know someone whose teenager has suffered a brain injury playing sports—a colleague at work, the neighbor down the block, your BFF from college. Would you recognize the signs if your child had a concussion? What you don't know could hurt him.
Sports-and recreation-related brain injuries have led to a 60% increase in ER visits among kids 19 and younger over the last decade. Test your knowledge of concussions. Take our quiz. 
1. True or False

The number of concussions among kids isn't actually rising, and the scary headlines are mostly media hype.Fact is, there's genuine reason for concern. A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there were an estimated 173,000 ER visits annually among kids 19 and younger due to sports- and recreation-related brain injuries, including concussions—a 60% jump over the prior decade. At Boston Children's Hospital alone, concussion-patient visits per month have increased 15-fold in the last five years. Dozens of youth concussion clinics have reportedly opened in nearly 35 states since 2010, and the problem is so severe that last fall the Institute of Medicine launched a sweeping 15-month study of sports-related concussions—and their link to both short- and long-term health issues—in kids from elementary school through early adulthood. ANSWER: FALSE

2. A concussion is defined as: 
  1. Any knock or blow to the head 
  2. A traumatic, usually temporary brain injury that disrupts cerebral function. The brain consists of soft tissue, which is cushioned from everyday bumps by the cerebrospinal fluid it floats in. Concussions occur when there's a jolting impact to the head or body, which may cause the brain to slide against the inner skull wall. That can result in bruising, blood vessel damage and nerve impairment, all of which can affect mental stamina and make the brain work longer and harder to complete even simple tasks. ANSWER: 2
3. True or False

Even though my kids don't play contact sports, they're still at risk. While football-related concussions tend to get the most attention (they account for 41% of the concussions experienced by high school athletes), the most common cause of concussion-related ER visits for kids 19 and younger is bicycle accidents, says the CDC. For girls ages 10 to 19, concussions occurred most often while cycling or playing soccer or basketball. "Any accident with significant impact to the head—a player-to-player collision, getting hit with equipment or falling hard on the ground—can cause a brain injury," says Kevin Walter, M.D., cofounder of the Sports Concussion Program at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. ANSWER: TRUE

4. Which of the following is a sign that your teen has a concussion? 

A) Confusion or fogginess
B) Loss of consciousness
C) Sensitivity to light and sound
D) Depression or psychological changes
E) Amnesia
F) Any of the above 

Confounding as it may be, there is no definitive test for concussion. Diagnosis is based on a neurological exam by a physician. Symptoms can differ widely: They may be subtle or severe, immediate or delayed, and last for days or weeks. Headache, dizziness and disorientation are the most common, while less than 5% of kids lose consciousness, according to research. The severity of any amnesia, however, may be one of the main indicators of the degree of injury. "If a child can't remember the first part of the game or doesn't remember getting home afterward, he should be evaluated for concussion," says Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., associate professor of neurology at University of Michigan Medical School and director of the Michigan NeuroSport Concussion Program. Whenever your child sustains a blow to the head, monitor him for 24 hours to make sure he's behaving and responding normally. If he's not, see a doctor immediately. ANSWER: F
Click here for more information on teen concussions from Family Circle. 
More from Family Circle:
 Do know the signs of a concussion? What is your experience with your children? 

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