Concussions in children

September 20, 2007  |  General

We have had several children lately in the PICU with concussions, and in talking with their parents I was reminded again how confusing that term can be to non-physicians. A good way to think of a concussion is an injury to the brain, nearly always a self-limited one, that produces symptoms but no objective damage like bleeding or bruising on the brain. Common symptoms include brief memory loss (often of the several minutes of time around the injury), nausea and vomiting, headache, and dizziness. Children with concussions also may have signs later of irritability, difficulty concentrating, or fatigue. It is not necessary to be “knocked out” to get a concussion.

Concussions are very common. For children, contact sports and accidents are the most common causes. In fact, twenty percent of all high school football players will have at least one concussion during their brief football careers.

There is no specific treatment for concussion other than to make sure the child does not have another blow to the head while the brain is still recovering from the first one — if that happens there can be serious consequences. Repeated concussions can cause long-standing brain damage. You can read more about concussions, especially guidelines about when it is safe for athletes to compete again, here and here.

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