At Cook Children's, we know that diagnosing and treating head injuries in children and teens requires special skills, and that's what sets our team apart. Our dedicated teams are here to ensure that your child recovers as quickly and fully as possible.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that causes temporary changes in the way the brain works. Many people think concussions happen when someone is knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen without losing consciousness as well.
What causes a concussion?
Most concussions in kids and teens happen while playing sports. The risk is highest for kids who play contact sports like football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer and field hockey.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Signs and symptoms of a concussion include:
- Being slow to answer questions
- Blurred or double vision
- Confusion and saying things that don't make sense
- Dizziness, balance problems or trouble walking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Not feeling well
- Not remembering what happened
- Slurred speech
Symptoms of a concussion usually happen right away, but can show up hours or days after an injury. A child or teen with a concussion may:
- Have trouble focusing
- Have learning or memory problems
- Have a headache that gets worse
- Have sleep problems
- Feel sad, easily upset or angered or nervous
If your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, call your health care provider or go to the ER if your child:
- Has a severe headache or one that gets worse
- Has a seizure
- Passes out
- Has other symptoms (such as continued vomiting) that worry you
- These could be signs of a serious concussion and your child might need treatment in a hospital.
How is a concussion diagnosed?
To diagnose a concussion, your health care provider will:
- Ask about how and when the head injury happened
- Ask about symptoms
- Test memory and concentration
- Do a physical exam and test balance, coordination and reflexes
If a head injury happens while someone is playing sports, a coach or athletic trainer may do sideline concussion testing. This is when a trained person does a few simple tests after a head injury to help decide if the athlete needs immediate medical care. An athlete who has a head injury must stop playing and see a doctor before returning to play.
Many schools or sports leagues use baseline concussion tests. Baseline testing uses computer programs to test a player's normal brain function. It checks attention, memory and speed of thinking. Doctors compare testing after an injury with baseline results to see how someone is recovering.
ImPACT is an objective tool to support trained health care providers in making sound return-to-activity decisions following concussions. It's a computerized test that measures memory, attention span, visual and verbal problem solving. ImPACT has two primary uses: before the onset of an activity, a baseline test is conducted to measure the athlete's performance baseline. In the event of an injury, a post-injury test is administered and compared to the baseline and/or normative data scores.
These forms of testing are vailable at these locations:
How is a concussion treated?
Your child's treatment will depend upon the grade of the concussion, whether it's mild or severe.
When can athletes return to sports?
Student athletes must wait until their health care provider says it's safe before returning to sports. This means they must:
- Have had a physical exam
- Are back in school
- Have no symptoms
- Aren't taking any medicines for concussion symptoms