Our kids are headed back to school–and back to the football field, softball field and volleyball court, just to name a few. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for youth athletes, and it’s also one of the busiest for the concussion team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2013, we treated more than 1,800 patients suffering from concussion. It’s more important than ever to understand the signs and symptoms of concussions and treat them appropriately. Here are five things you should know before your child kicks off the fall sports season.
- Concussions are serious. Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury that affects how the brain works and processes information. There can be many signs and symptoms of a concussion such as headaches, nausea and sensitivity to light. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can recognize a concussion and get treatment.
- Concussions take time to heal. In order to heal properly, the brain needs to rest. This means avoiding activities like reading, watching TV or playing video games until the symptoms have gone away. Many kids and teens will need a gradual return to school work as part of their recovery plan.
- A gradual return to play is the law. The Return to Play Act of 2013 is a Georgia law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2014. This law states that if a youth athlete participating in a youth athletic activity exhibits symptoms of a concussion, he or she must be removed from play. Before a youth athlete can return to play, he or she must be cleared by a healthcare provider trained in the management of concussions. Your child’s school or recreational league should provide you with information about concussions before the start of the season. Sustaining a second concussion before the first one has healed can have serious consequences such as brain damage or even death, so it is very important that the return to activities is gradual.
- A baseline test is a good idea. One tool that can be used to help determine if an athlete is ready to return to play after a concussion is computerized neurocognitive testing. Children’s uses Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT®). Taking the test before the start of the season gives us a baseline score that can be compared to post-concussion test results if there is a head injury later. Baseline testing is available for teams and individual athletes ages 10 and older at five of our locations in Gwinnett.
- Talk to your doctor. If you think your child may have a concussion, talk to your child’s doctor. If a doctor has diagnosed your child with a concussion and you still have questions about their treatment, call our concussion nurse coordinator at 404-785-1111. Visit choa.org/concussion to learn more.