Learning about Concussions
Sport and physical activity bring great benefits to children that promote lifelong health and well-being. These benefits include improved cardiorespiratory fitness, stronger muscles and bones, better mental health, and reduced risk of developing chronic conditions. While it is important to encourage children to be active, we also need to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be safe and prevent injuries such as concussions. By learning how to manage risks, children develop personal responsibility for their safety allowing them to live healthy active lives.
What is a concussion?
Concussions are complex injuries which cause changes to the way the brain functions. Concussions are caused when the brain is injured by a direct blow or jolt to the head, face or neck. They may also occur if an individual experiences a blow elsewhere on the body with a force transmitted to the head causing the brain to move rapidly within the skull. Even what may seem like a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Unlike a bruise or a scraped knee, concussions are not as visible to identify as they occur inside the head. The changes in brain function caused by concussions lead to symptoms that may be physical, mental, emotional and behavioural, and/or related to sleep. Signs and symptoms may be different for everyone. Common symptoms include:
Headache, Difficulty concentrating and remembering, Sadness, Drowsiness
Dizziness, Difficulty reading, Easily upset or angered, Difficulty falling asleep, Nausea, Not thinking clearly, Frustration, Sleeping more or less than usual.
Everyone’s experience with concussions is different. Signs and symptoms may appear immediately or they may be delayed beginning 24-48 hours after an injury. Concussions can be more difficult to detect in younger children as they may be unable to communicate how they are feeling. Be sure your child knows the symptoms of a concussion. Encourage your child to immediately report any symptoms they or someone they know are experiencing to a responsible adult such as a parent, teacher or coach. If a concussion is suspected, the child should immediately be removed from physical activity. Remember, “When in doubt, sit it out!”
What if my child has a concussion?
In the case of a suspected concussion, it is important to seek medical attention right away as health care professionals will be able to complete a medical assessment and direct concussion management. Concussions, like all injuries, take time to heal. Rest will allow a child to recover more quickly. Following a gradual Return to Sport strategy promotes optimal recovery and is the best way to make sure participants remain symptom free. It is also important to work with school staff to help guide your child’s Return to Learn and prioritize activities to reduce the demands placed on the brain.
How to Prevent Concussions?
Parents play an important role in creating and maintaining a culture of safety amongst children. Setting a proper example and encouraging safe practices will help children learn how to take the appropriate precautions to reduce all types of injuries, including concussions.
Here are a few tips to help prevent concussions:
• Encourage fair play within the rules, good sportsmanship and respect for opponents at all times.
• Teach children to always wear protective equipment that fits properly and is well-maintained.
• Help children to be aware of their environment and understand how to make decisions to avoid injury to themselves and others.
• Discuss how to minimize the risks associated with participating in a particular sport or physical activity.
• Limit contact or modify rules to certain drills or techniques, particularly for younger participants.