From organized sports to playground shenanigans to bicycle or motor vehicle accidents, children and young adults face the frightening prospect of a head injury at nearly every turn. Parents might hear news reports that stretch the truth or anecdotal stories that leave out a significant portion of the facts. In every circumstance, there are certain things parents should know about concussions.
The Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center has published CDC Guidelines on the Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Children. Their co-director, Angela Lumba-Brown, MD, notes four questions that every parent should know the answer to.
- Are there warning signs that a child should be taken for a medical evaluation? As with any accident, a head injury can vary depending on numerous factors from the type of collision to the child’s history of injuries. While there is no single concrete example of a concussion symptom, parents should be on the lookout for behaviors or abilities that differ from the child’s norm. Difficulty walking, mood swings, personality changes, blurred vision, memory challenges – things like this should be paid careful attention.
- What are the main groups of symptoms? As noted earlier, there are countless symptoms of concussion. They do, however, tend to fall into five main categories. The five categories of symptoms are headache, cognitive issues, mood changes, ocular-motor challenges and balance symptoms.
- What is the timeline for recovery? Unfortunately, there is no set timetable for recovery. In fact, parents should always be aware of the increased chance for a re-injury. The child should slowly return to activity by following a strict schedule based on a doctor’s recommendations. Parents should be wary of worsening symptoms or symptoms which show no sign of abating.
- Are there standard evaluation tests? Without any damage to the brain’s structure, it can be challenging for a neurologist to assess the damage to the brain’s function. The battery of tests can include speech tests, coordination tests and even the action of the facial muscles. Many doctors will wish to monitor the child for an extended period of time to track mood and personality changes over a set duration.
Neurological testing continues to improve as does our understanding of the brain. Parents should be sensitive to changing symptoms both visible – trouble in coordination – and invisible – lapses in memory – after a brain injury. Working with a trusted medical professional and seeking legal guidance can help answer any questions parents might have.