When your teen has had a head injury, talk of a concussion may be mentioned. But what exactly is a concussion, what are the symptoms and how should treatment proceed? Are there any sports risks or preventable measures that can be taken to lower your teen’s risk of a concussion? Here’s a quick look at the basics you need to know about this health issue.
How to Know if Your Teen Has a Concussion
A concussion is a mild TBI, or traumatic brain injury, which takes place when the patient suffers a blow to the head or has an injury that makes their head move back and forth with a great deal of force. It can cause changes in brain chemistry and damage to the brain cells themselves. Typically, teens who follow their doctor’s recommendations recover within a few weeks.
Symptoms of a concussion can include losing consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion, blurred or double vision, problems answering questions, nausea or vomiting, slurring of speech, memory issues, problems with concentration, sleep issues, mood changes or generally not feeling well. If these issues become worse or your teen suffers a seizure or loss of consciousness, it’s important to immediately seek medical attention. Concussion symptoms typically happen immediately, but their onset may be delayed by hours or even days.
A concussion occurs when the brain is either injured directly or from it impacting the inside of the skull. This causes a change of signals between nervous tissues, which in turn causes concussion symptoms to appear. There are risks in contact sports, but having appropriate protective gear and following other preventative measures can help reduce the risk of concussion. However, concussions can also result from falls, car or bicycle accidents, fights and similar incidents.
Concussions often do not show up on MRIs or CT scans. However, this type of imaging may be used if the patient has lost consciousness, had a severe headache or one that continued to worsen, had continued vomiting or had a serious accident or injury. Many coaches and athletic trainers are able to provide sideline concussion testing to determine if the athlete should immediately seek medical care.
Concussions heal at their own rate, but generally, patients are told to cut back on physical activity or activities that require serious concentration. The patient can participate in activities while still symptomatic, but if the symptoms interfere with that activity, they should try a less strenuous version of that activity or try again after a short break.
It’s very important that teens follow their doctor’s instructions with regards to rest, activity level and returning to sports. Failing to do so, especially if the teen returns to play before they are fully healed, can result in second-impact syndrome, which in turn may lead to permanent brain damage. It’s important to seek medical advice if you suspect that your teen’s injury may have caused a concussion, especially if they have a headache that doesn’t improve or worsens.