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Five Facts About Concussions

By Hailey C. Henderson, MS, CCC/SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

oto---blog-3.jpgWith high school football well under way, this particular post will spotlight the topic of sports related concussions specifically looking at how they impact athletes and parents of athletes. Of note, high impact sports is not the only way to obtain a concussion. Anyone can become injured during a fall, car accident or any other daily activity. If your child participates in impact sports such as football or boxing, you have an increased risk of getting a concussion. In 2010, the CDC estimated approximately 2.5 million people in the United States visited the hospital with traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

What is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are caused by a bump or blow to the head. Even a very mild bump or blow to the head could be very serious. You can't see a concussion. But you can look for some signs and symptoms that will likely show up right after the injury. However, some symptoms may not appear or be noticed until days or weeks after the injury. If your child reports any symptoms of concussion, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away.

What are some signs and symptoms of concussion?
Athletes say:

  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Difficulty concentrating/remembering
  • Confusion
  • Just not “feeling right” or is “feeling down”

Parents say:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about where they are
  • Forgets instructions
  • Unsure of details about game, score, opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Delayed response to questions or answers questions slowly
  • Loss of Consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows changes in mood, behavior, or personality

What do you do if you think your child has a concussion?

  • Seek medical attention right away.
    It is important for your child to seek a healthcare professional so that they may be able to assess your child to determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child to return to regular activities (school, sports, etc.)
  • Keep your child out of play.
    It is so important that once a concussion has been identified that you allow the brain to rest and heal itself. DO NOT let your child return to play the day of the injury and until your child is cleared by a healthcare professional. Children who return to play too soon could be at risk for having a second concussion. Repeat or later concussions can be very serious as they can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.
  • Tell your child's coach about any previous concussion.
    Your coaches/PE teachers/school teachers should know if your child has had a previous concussion. Your child's instructors may not know about a concussion your child received in another sport or activity unless you tell them.

What role does the speech language pathologist play if my child has a concussion?
Sometimes after a concussion, people demonstrate cognitive problems as well as communication problems which can impair their ability to live independently. They may not be able to organize their thoughts; they may have a hard time processing new information; or they may have trouble finding the “right” words that they need to express themselves. Early on after a TBI, especially if the injury is more severe, the person may have trouble with swallowing, chewing, or forming basic word sounds.

The speech language pathologist is involved in evaluating and teaching speech, writing, reading, and expression skills aimed at both comprehension and communication. For a person with brain injury, the SLP may work on attention, organization, planning, and sequencing. They also specialize in teaching memory strategies - a classic problem in TBI.

How can you help your child return to school safely after concussion?
Children and teens who return to school after concussion may need to:

  • Take rest breaks as needed
  • Spend fewer hours at school
  • Be given more time to take tests or complete assignments
  • Receive help with schoolwork
  • Reduce time spent reading, writing, or on the computer

Talk with your child's teachers, school nurse, coaches, speech-language pathologist or counselor about your child's concussion and symptoms. As your child's symptoms decrease, the additional support can be removed gradually.