Are Concussions Being Taken Seriously Enough?

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

This week’s Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at the White House had the President addressing the increasing number of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI). With the White House now focusing on the situation, surely, word is getting out and parents, coaches and trainers are taking this diagnosis seriously, aren’t they?

ImageUnfortunately, though, even with national-level attention, some folks still aren’t getting the message.

Just this week, I saw a BMX (bicycle motocross) parent whose child has suffered a concussion. During our conversation, I heard phrases like “it was only a little concussion” and “everybody gets a little dinged,” proving that the BMX community is another sport where we can still make inroads. HeadFirst Concussion Care is committed to doing just that by attending local and state BMX championship events to educate fans, parents and coaches that mTBI is truly a serious injury.

Another recent case involved a parent who was reluctant to admit her daughter had a concussion, despite advice from several HeadFirst health providers. Several of us had noted oculomotor deficiencies (when the patient has trouble with movement of the eye) and recommended a referral to an ophthalmologist. Four weeks later, the child still had not been taken to the specialist.

After a follow-up exam, I demonstrated to the young patient’s parents that she had bilateral lower field deficits and used the ImPACT test to demonstrate deficits in her peripheral field. For the second time, I emphasized to the parents the importance of following our recommendations and in getting their young child to have an eye examination.

Despite all the press about concussions, I’m still seeing encounters like these all too often. So, what can we do?

One solution may involve a change in semantics. Instead of words like “concussion” and “mild traumatic brain injury,” use terms like “significant neurological event that involves a change in mental status” or “traumatic brain injury that involves (x) symptoms.”

Additionally, emphasize to parents that concussions are a silent injury. Many of them would treat a broken bone or sprained ligament with more care than they would a brain injury. But, a brain injury should be taken just as seriously, if not more so, as a visible wound.

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