Rough and tumble play is an often normal part of growing up. When your child participates in certain sports, the risk of concussion may be higher, but any child may suffer this brain injury through a fall, bump, or motion that affects the brain. They don’t need to lose consciousness to experience such an injury.
Recovery from concussion varies widely between children, so it’s difficult to know when it’s safe for a child to return to sports activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a six-step sports return plan, but only after your child receives an “all clear” from their pediatrician.
Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon, MD, can help you through the sometimes frustrating and lingering progression of concussion recovery. As a parent, here’s what you need to know to monitor your child’s injury:
Concussion basics and symptoms
Concussions happen when the head experiences a blow that’s strong enough to jar the brain. Even an extreme shaking of the head or upper body can be enough to create a whiplash-type effect that can produce a concussion.
It’s possible to fully recover from a concussion and indeed most children do, usually within two weeks. However, returning to high-risk activities such as some sports before full healing has the potential to produce long-lasting symptoms. Sometimes, these persistent postconcussive symptoms have no connection to the initial severity of the injury.
The original injury may not be recognized as extreme enough to cause a concussion, so it’s often the symptoms that reveal the condition. Common physical symptoms can be accompanied by cognitive and emotional conditions, and sleep patterns are sometimes affected too.
Watch for connections like these:
- Headache, accompanied by mental fog, irritable moods, and trouble falling asleep
- Balance issues, coupled with concentration problems, nervousness, and sleeping less than usual
- Dizziness may combine with slowed thoughts, sad moods, and sleeping longer than usual
- Vomiting and nausea accompanied by memory issues and more volatile emotions
- General fatigue and trouble with focus tend to combine
In addition, sensitivity to light and/or sound may be an indication that your child has a concussion.
When is it safe for my child to return to sports?
The first step is receiving Dr. Tandon’s clearance to resume activity, but she advises following the CDC’s six-step return to play progression. This plan includes:
- Returning to normal, nonsport activities like going to school
- Adding aerobic activity, like walking or light running, but no weight training yet
- Moderate activity with more strenuous aerobics and moderate use of weights
- Heavy activity without contact, essentially training at peak levels
- Sports practice under controlled conditions
- Full competition in game situations
Aerobic activities can include stationary biking, but regular cycling, with its risk of falls and further head injuries, should not be considered a step 6 activity.
No concussion is mild enough to be ignored. Contact our office at the first sign of potential concussion so that Dr. Tandon can examine your child and help them to recover completely and return to their sport safely. Call or click to book an appointment today.