Your young soccer star and a teammate both go up for a header and … Boom! … end up colliding head-to-head in-stead. As you rush down to the sidelines, your heart pounds as you think of all those statistics about concussion and the damage it can do: long-term memory problems, trouble concentrating, even depression.
“I would definitely watch any child with a blow to the head quite closely,” says Cedars-Sinai neurologist Jane Tavyev, M.D., who offers additional tips for parents.
What should parents consider in deciding whether their child should play in a sport where a head injury is a possible?
One is that the developing brain is more impacted by concussions. Two is that concussions are cumulative in an exponential way, meaning that each subsequent concussion is going to cause more damage or symptoms than the first one.
I think it’s a difficult subject because we know the benefit of sports to children. I don’t want to do anything to discourage sports, because the opposite seems to be video games.
What can parents do to help protect their kids?
Anything where there is a helmet available, they should be wearing a helmet. That also applies to roller blading, skateboarding, bicycling, skiing.
I think making sure that you have a coach who has an awareness of concussion prevention and concussion evaluation strategies is key. And if you get a sense that the coach is not taking concussion seriously, then I would consider switching to a different sport or trying to find a different team with a different coach.
If a child suffers a head injury on the sports ﬁeld, what should the parent’s ﬁrst response be?
Many coaches are trained to look for signs of concussion and are administering sideline concussion assessments. Rely on instinct and the coach’s judgment to determine whether you should go to the emergency room right away or just sit out the rest of the game.
Someone could seem, in the first five minutes, like they’re fine, but if they’re not really performing at top level, they’re prone to more injuries going back into the game. If you don’t go to the emergency room, see your pediatrician right away to help determine whether there has been a concussion.
How long should follow-up care last?
It’s so variable. Some children have symptoms that last months, and some children recover in a matter of weeks. It could definitely be several months, and those kids need medical care. As long as the child is having symptoms, they should be followed by their healthcare provider and absolutely not participating in sports.