Taking care of your brain

Greg GackHealth & Fitness

I played lots of sports growing up, including softball and volleyball. Looking back, it’s possible that at least once, I had a concussion.

The increased attention that’s been paid to brain health and concussion prevention in recent years, is truly positive. Our brains control the rest of our body, brain health is step 1 in overall body health.

If you’re like many people, you know preventing concussions is important, but you haven’t taken the time to lean more – just yet.

Let’s get started.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury- or TBI- caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.  This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging the brain cells.

How can I Help Keep my Children Safe?

Sports are a great way for children to stay healthy and help them to better in school.  There are a few steps you can follow to help lower your child’s chances of getting a concussion or other serious brain injuries.

  • Help create a culture of safety for the team:
    • Work with their coach to teach ways to lower the chances of getting a concussion.
    • Talk with your children or teens about concussion and ask if they have concerns about reporting a concussion. Talk with them about their concerns; emphasize the importance of reporting concussions and taking time to recover from one.
    • Ensure that they follow their coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.
    • Tell your children or teens that you expect them to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
  • When appropriate, teach your child that they must wear a helmet to help lower the chances of the most serious types of brain or head injuries. There is no “concussion- proof” helmet, so it is important that your children learn they should avoid getting hit in the head.

Below is a list of signs that children may show or report after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body.  If children show or report one or more of these signs or symptoms, or they simply say they just “don’t feel right”, they may have a concussion.

  • Signs Observed by Parents or Coaches
    • Appears dazed or stunned
    • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent
    • Moves clumsily
    • Answers questions slowly
    • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
    • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
    • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall
  • Signs Reported by Children
    • Headache or “pressure” in head
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision
    • Bothered by light or noise
    • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
    • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems
    • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”

The most important thing for you to teach your child is to tell them to report their concussion symptoms to you or their coach right away.  Some children think concussions are not that serious or worry that if they report a concussion they will lost their position on the team or look weak.  Be sure to remind them that it’s better to miss one game than the whole season.

What should I do if my Child has a Possible Concussion?

As a parent, if you think your child may have a concussion, you should:

  • Remove your child or teen from play.
  • Keep your child out of play the day of the injury. Your child should be seen by a healthcare provider and only return to play with permission from a healthcare provider who is experienced in evaluating for concussion.
  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider for written instructions on helping your child or teen return to school. You can give the instructions to your child’s school nurse and teacher(s) and return-to-play instructions to the coach and/or athletic trainer.

Do not try to judge the severity of the injury yourself. Only a healthcare provider should assess a child for a possible concussion. Concussion signs and symptoms often show up soon after the injury. But you may not know how serious the concussion is at first, and some symptoms may not show up for hours or days.

The brain needs time to heal after a concussion. A child’s return to school and sports should be a gradual process that is carefully managed and monitored by a healthcare provider.