5 Things Parents Should Know About Concussions
Whether they hear about concussions from terrifying news reports or cautionary tales from friends, the entire subject can be troubling to a parent. When a child is hurt, fearing a mild traumatic brain injury can become front and center in a parent’s mind.
Angela Lumba-Brown, MD, is the co-director of the Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center and has recently published CDC Guidelines on the Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Children. She answered numerous questions on the topic in a recent interview.
- Are there warning signs that a child should be taken to see a doctor? Depending on the severity of the accident (such as a vehicle accident versus knocking heads with another youth on the playground), the child might exhibit a broad range of symptoms. If the child is not acting like their usual self, difficulty walking, slurred speech, seizures, dizziness, confusion or excessive sleepiness – these are all indications that the child might be suffering a mild traumatic brain injury and should be examined by a medical professional.
- Why is the terminology changing? Historically, a concussion was considered a type of mild traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, over time, there has been a difference in perception among patients, families and coaches. The CDC guidelines were revised to ensure that the most medically accurate process possible is described when providing guidance to patients and their parents.
- What does an MTBI evaluation entail? The assessment is geared toward evaluating neurologic function. The evaluation can include: assessing the child’s speech and flow of thoughts, their coordination, how they move and walk, their strength and muscle tone, and the action of the facial muscles. The doctor might also elect to monitor the child for a couple hours to note any change of symptoms that might be indicative of serious issues such as significant bleeding on the brain.
- What should parents know about the recovery from MTBIs? While there is no set timetable for recovery, parents should always be aware of re-injury. A child should slowly reintegrate into physical activity and avoid sleeping too much as the brain requires stimulation to get blood flow back to the injured areas. Parents should be cautious of worsening symptoms such as nausea, cognitive impairment, loss of memory or language difficulty.
- What are the main groups of symptoms? There are generally five main categories of symptoms and they are headache or migraine, cognitive symptoms such as slowed reaction times and difficulty processing information, anxiety and other mood symptoms, ocular-motor symptoms such as blurred vision, and balance symptoms. While not every child experiences the same symptoms, parents should be aware of these possibilities.
Study and research on mild traumatic brain injuries will continue as neurologic exams improve. Our understanding of the brain – both structure and function – has grown with leaps and bounds due to the increasing sensitivity of medical technology. Parents should be aware of personality changes, mood swings, persistent headaches or difficulty walking. If your child has suffered a concussion, a skilled personal injury attorney can provide information on your legal options.