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Concussions: What Parents Should Know

By Kari Kampakis

Concussion EvaluationAs parents, we’re wired to protect our children. We protect their bodies and hearts with vigilance, but what about their brains? How vigilantly do we guard those?

This question is particularly relevant in regards to concussions – a hot topic in sports today, thanks to strides made in research and awareness. Because the brain doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood, a concussion in a child or teen may have long-term effects on cognitive development if not handled correctly.

In the majority of concussions, recovery may take up to two weeks (one week for symptoms to resolve, another week to meet return-to-play guidelines). It’s important that parents understand this and not get aggressive in returning their kids to play, because an inadequate recovery time may make the athlete more susceptible to another concussion or even more severe brain injury.

Recent research suggests that multiple concussions may increase a person’s likelihood of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

According to Drew Ferguson, MEd, ATC, Director of UAB Sports Medicine, the protocol for concussions has changed vastly as information about the brain has come to light. Ten years ago, a player suffering a head injury may have been sent back into the game if he could answer simple questions. Today, Alabama state law mandates that any player showing signs or symptoms of a concussion be taken out and not play again until a physician evaluates the athlete and clears them for return to play.

“Concussion used to be defined as loss of consciousness, but research shows that’s not the case,” Ferguson says. “A lot of physiological damage is done to the brain where there’s a head injury. In some cases, you won’t fully know the symptoms until 24 to 48 hours later.”

As part of a multidisciplinary effort involving Sports Medicine, Neurosurgery and Emergency Medicine, Ferguson helped establish the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama, which provides evaluation, treatment and medical clearance for youth and teenage athletes to return to play. One thing always emphasized after a concussion is mental rest. While “mental rest” may include being held out of school for a week, it also means no texting, video games, loud sounds, or other mental stimulation.

“We all recognize physical symptoms of a concussion – headaches, blurred vision, nausea, short-term memory loss, personality change – but there’s a cognitive effect, too. Living in a computer age requires a great deal of brain activity that may inflame the process.”

Ferguson says that while 90 percent of the concussions they see are mild and clear up, it’s the remaining 10 percent that concerns them.

“What we worry about is damage to the brain from multiple concussions and post-concussion syndrome. A patient who experiences declining grades or a change in attention span sometimes shouldn’t be allowed to return to contact sports.”

Managing head injuries at the Concussion Clinic can get tricky considering the patient population they’re dealing with: largely teenagers who think they’re bulletproof and just want to get back in the game again.

“These are kids living from weekend to weekend. They’re focused on what’s happening now,” Ferguson says. “It’s our job, as athletic trainers and physicians, to do what’s best for the player long-term. It’s important that parents understand what’s going on, and to know why takes a certain amount of time to ascertain when it’s safe for the child to go back.”

Kari Kampakis is a Birmingham mom of four and a freelance writer. Visit her blog at karikampakis.com, find her on Facebook at “Kari Kampakis, writer,” or email her at kari@karikampakis.com.

As parents, we’re wired to protect our children. We protect their bodies and hearts with vigilance, but what about their brains? How vigilantly do we guard those?

This question is particularly relevant in regards to concussions – a hot topic in sports today, thanks to strides made in research and awareness. Because the brain doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood, a concussion in a child or teen may have long-term effects on cognitive development if not handled correctly.

In the majority of concussions, recovery may take up to two weeks (one week for symptoms to resolve, another week to meet return-to-play guidelines). It’s important that parents understand this and not get aggressive in returning their kids to play, because an inadequate recovery time may make the athlete more susceptible to another concussion or even more severe brain injury.

Recent research suggests that multiple concussions may increase a person’s likelihood of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

According to Drew Ferguson, MEd, ATC, Director of UAB Sports Medicine, the protocol for concussions has changed vastly as information about the brain has come to light. Ten years ago, a player suffering a head injury may have been sent back into the game if he could answer simple questions. Today, Alabama state law mandates that any player showing signs or symptoms of a concussion be taken out and not play again until a physician evaluates the athlete and clears them for return to play.

“Concussion used to be defined as loss of consciousness, but research shows that’s not the case,” Ferguson says. “A lot of physiological damage is done to the brain where there’s a head injury. In some cases, you won’t fully know the symptoms until 24 to 48 hours later.”

As part of a multidisciplinary effort involving Sports Medicine, Neurosurgery and Emergency Medicine, Ferguson helped establish the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama, which provides evaluation, treatment and medical clearance for youth and teenage athletes to return to play. One thing always emphasized after a concussion is mental rest. While “mental rest” may include being held out of school for a week, it also means no texting, video games, loud sounds, or other mental stimulation.

“We all recognize physical symptoms of a concussion – headaches, blurred vision, nausea, short-term memory loss, personality change – but there’s a cognitive effect, too. Living in a computer age requires a great deal of brain activity that may inflame the process.”

Ferguson says that while 90 percent of the concussions they see are mild and clear up, it’s the remaining 10 percent that concerns them.

“What we worry about is damage to the brain from multiple concussions and post-concussion syndrome. A patient who experiences declining grades or a change in attention span sometimes shouldn’t be allowed to return to contact sports.”

Managing head injuries at the Concussion Clinic can get tricky considering the patient population they’re dealing with: largely teenagers who think they’re bulletproof and just want to get back in the game again.

“These are kids living from weekend to weekend. They’re focused on what’s happening now,” Ferguson says. “It’s our job, as athletic trainers and physicians, to do what’s best for the player long-term. It’s important that parents understand what’s going on, and to know why takes a certain amount of time to ascertain when it’s safe for the child to go back.”

Kari Kampakis is a Birmingham mom of four and a freelance writer. Visit her blog at karikampakis.com, find her on Facebook at “Kari Kampakis, writer,” or email her at kari@karikampakis.com.

As parents, we’re wired to protect our children. We protect their bodies and hearts with vigilance, but what about their brains? How vigilantly do we guard those?

This question is particularly relevant in regards to concussions – a hot topic in sports today, thanks to strides made in research and awareness. Because the brain doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood, a concussion in a child or teen may have long-term effects on cognitive development if not handled correctly.

In the majority of concussions, recovery may take up to two weeks (one week for symptoms to resolve, another week to meet return-to-play guidelines). It’s important that parents understand this and not get aggressive in returning their kids to play, because an inadequate recovery time may make the athlete more susceptible to another concussion or even more severe brain injury.

Recent research suggests that multiple concussions may increase a person’s likelihood of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

According to Drew Ferguson, MEd, ATC, Director of UAB Sports Medicine, the protocol for concussions has changed vastly as information about the brain has come to light. Ten years ago, a player suffering a head injury may have been sent back into the game if he could answer simple questions. Today, Alabama state law mandates that any player showing signs or symptoms of a concussion be taken out and not play again until a physician evaluates the athlete and clears them for return to play.

“Concussion used to be defined as loss of consciousness, but research shows that’s not the case,” Ferguson says. “A lot of physiological damage is done to the brain where there’s a head injury. In some cases, you won’t fully know the symptoms until 24 to 48 hours later.”

As part of a multidisciplinary effort involving Sports Medicine, Neurosurgery and Emergency Medicine, Ferguson helped establish the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama, which provides evaluation, treatment and medical clearance for youth and teenage athletes to return to play. One thing always emphasized after a concussion is mental rest. While “mental rest” may include being held out of school for a week, it also means no texting, video games, loud sounds, or other mental stimulation.

“We all recognize physical symptoms of a concussion – headaches, blurred vision, nausea, short-term memory loss, personality change – but there’s a cognitive effect, too. Living in a computer age requires a great deal of brain activity that may inflame the process.”

Ferguson says that while 90 percent of the concussions they see are mild and clear up, it’s the remaining 10 percent that concerns them.

“What we worry about is damage to the brain from multiple concussions and post-concussion syndrome. A patient who experiences declining grades or a change in attention span sometimes shouldn’t be allowed to return to contact sports.”

Managing head injuries at the Concussion Clinic can get tricky considering the patient population they’re dealing with: largely teenagers who think they’re bulletproof and just want to get back in the game again.

“These are kids living from weekend to weekend. They’re focused on what’s happening now,” Ferguson says. “It’s our job, as athletic trainers and physicians, to do what’s best for the player long-term. It’s important that parents understand what’s going on, and to know why takes a certain amount of time to ascertain when it’s safe for the child to go back.”

Kari Kampakis is a Birmingham mom of four and a freelance writer. Visit her blog at karikampakis.com, find her on Facebook at “Kari Kampakis, writer,” or email her at kari@karikampakis.com.

One Comment
  1. chasecolincorbin3@yahoo.com #

    Can having a two concession within weeks of each other cause issues with kids like a few years from now ..

    November 8, 2013

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