Concussions On or Off the Playing Field: What Parents Need to Know

Hassenfield Children's Hospital

From the real experts at Hassenfield Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone:

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by sudden head movement – from either a jolt or blow to the head or body. While many people think of football and other contact sports as the most common cause of concussion, playgrounds and bicycling or scooters are the leading cause of concussion in children. It is critical that children play safely and that kids, parents, and guardians know how to spot the signs and symptoms of concussion. Symptoms from a concussion can take minutes or hours to develop, so if a concussion is suspected, it is important to book an appointment with a doctor trained in concussion management for a thorough evaluation after a blow to the head or body. Concussions typically resolve on their own within a month of injury, but recovery is faster for children who see a specialist right away.

A few simple precautions can help keep you and your children safe:

  • Use age-appropriate playground and cycling equipment
  • Ensure that equipment is properly maintained for safety
  • Use guardrails to prevent falls
  • Wear a helmet when bicycling, skateboarding, or using a scooter
  • Look out for hazards that can cause trips or falls
  • Talk with kids about the importance of playing by the rules to avoid unintentional injury

Concussion identification:

Signs or symptoms of concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

You should immediately seek medical help or call 911 if there are signs of:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or worsening symptoms
  • Sudden changes in speech or walking
  • Bruising around the eyes or behind the ear
  • Facial deformity
  • Vision changes

 Recovery:

Children can begin to return to their normal, non-contact, non-strenuous activities a few days after suffering a concussion as long as their symptoms do not increase with activity. Promoting good sleep and nutrition can help the child feel better. The child can also gradually return to school as tolerated under guidance from a physician, so communication with school administration is important. Children should not return to sports or strenuous physical activities until they are in school full-time and have been cleared by their physician.

 

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Elizabeth Barchi, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and sports medicine specialist at NYU Langone Health. She sees children and adults at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital and the Joan H. and Preston Robert Tisch Center at Essex Crossing, and her main interests include injury prevention, cross-training, nutrition and energy availability, and optimizing recovery.

Author: Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone

At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we understand that caring for infants, children, and teenagers is a special privilege. That’s why we partner with our young patients and their families to offer expert medical and surgical care. Our specialists treat children with conditions ranging from minor illnesses to complex, more serious issues at locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.