Head Injuries in Children Warrant Immediate Attention
An injury to a child s arm or leg may appear obvious, but a head injury may not be immediately apparent. Motor vehicle accidents, falls from bicycles or skateboards; or collisions during recreational sports are common causes for concussion in children. Child abuse also is a major contributor.
A recent review reveals that as many as 3.8 million recreation and sport-related concussions occur annually in the United States, says pediatric neurologist Britt Stroud, M.D. While this sounds high, Dr. Stroud says it is clearly under-reported.
Data are significantly lacking about concussions in grade school and middle school athletes, he says. Many cases go unrecognized, as symptoms may not appear immediately and can be subtle. Concussions represent about 9 percent of all high school athletic injuries. Football, hockey and rugby for boys and soccer and basketball for girls represent the sports with the highest number of injuries.
There are reports of more injuries to girls than boys who play the same sport, Dr. Stroud says. This is an interesting conundrum, but I should point out that the presence of symptoms and the willingness of some boneheaded males to report the symptoms...are two separate entities. I joke about it but this mindset is a bit engrained in our culture. We give favor and reward those who excel despite adversity. We fight cancer...We play through the pain...We work through lunch...we volunteer our bodies to run marathons. This drive helps us excel and can separate us from mediocrity.
However, it can come with a price if we are not careful. Dr. Stroud encourages parents to pay attention to their children s behavior and body language after falling or experiencing a sports injury. He also talks to children about listening to what their bodies tell them. I try to help kids think beyond this season, he says. There are joint replacements, but there are no brain replacements.
When a child has a head injury, Dr. Stroud recommends:
- Wearing helmets when riding on just about anything that moves.
- Being your child s advocate. They may be embarrassed that complaining of an injury will be seen as a weakness in front of peers or coaches. As a parent you can assume that burden and accept the blame until they see the doctor who can take over this role.
- Taking a break and don t return to sports or strenuous activities until evaluated by a licensed health care professional trained in concussion.
- Giving your brain a break and let it heal. You may cause greater damage by injuring your brain again before it has healed.
- Sitting out until no symptoms are present at rest or with exercise while off any concussion- related medicines.
- Asking your doctor about a formal, graduated return to play program.
I like a saying I heard: When in doubt, sit out , Dr. Stroud says, And then go see your doctor.
The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida Capital Campaign
Britt Stroud, M.D.
Golisano Children s Hospital of Southwest Florida
15901 Bass Road
Fort Myers, FL 33908