How to Mismanage a Child’s Concussion

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director
and Ann-Marie Sedor, HeadFirst Concussion Care Marketing

Lots of myths and misinformation exist about how parents and coaches can supervise the recovery of a child’s concussion. Some of the most common ones stem from advice that was given years ago. But better understanding of brain injuries and new imaging technology has changed how concussions are treated. Here’s what NOT to do when managing your child’s injury.

headfirst-teen-holding-head-concussion

1  — Waking Every Hour or Two
Decades ago, healthcare providers encouraged parents to wake up their concussed children frequently to monitor their mental status. However, with modern imaging and clinical evaluations, patients who have been cleared by a concussion specialist can sleep soundly. In fact, remaining asleep 12, 15 or even 20 hours following a head injury is actually helpful, restful, and promotes faster recovery.

2 — Return to the Game Too Soon
Most concussion laws in every state have a provision in which a child is removed from play when a concussion is suspected and can only be cleared to return by a concussion specialist. Unfortunately, clinicians will periodically encounter an overly ambitious parent wanting to return his or her child to play prior to making a full recovery from the concussion. Depending on the timing, this can be exceedingly dangerous. If it is too soon, the child may be in danger of secondary impact syndrome, which can be fatal.

3 — Keep Away from Friends and Electronic Devices
Socialization is an important part of adolescent development. Keeping a child completely isolated from friends and electronic devices can lead to a sense of isolation, and in some cases, even depression. Providers and parents need to be mindful of balancing remediation with a young person’s sensitive self-esteem.

4 — Promote Completely Inactivity and Darkened Rooms
Although some rest is thought to be useful from 48 to 72 hours after the head injury, extensive rest and inactivity in a dark room is actually thought to do more harm than good. The brain can actually have more difficulty to returning to normal activity following an extensive period of inactivity.

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The “Mild” Concussion Misnomer

On Sunday, Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin, III was knocked out. According to his coach, Mike Shanahan, he received a mild concussion. When asked about RGIII, Shanahan said the following – “He wasn’t sure what quarter it was in the third quarter. So at that time, when he wasn’t really sure what the score was, what the quarter was, we knew he had a mild concussion — at least according to the doctors,”

 

This leads us to the question – is it possible to get a “mild” concussion?

And the resounding answer is NO!

According to the CDC a concussion is a brain injury, and ALL are serious.

When talking about concussions, the word mild can be used to describe the symptoms. Symptoms can be mild to severe.  You will also hear the word mild to describe the type of brain injury. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, but do not confuse this with having a “mild” concussion. Again all concussions are serious and need to be treated that way.

Mild Brain Injuries Just Don’t Exist

We find it interesting people still call concussions “mild brain injuries.”  Furthermore, culture makes every attempt to break down the preconceived notion that concussions are nothing serious.

“Just shake off,” they say, or “Man-up.” We can thank educational resources like the dictionary and encyclopedia for perpetuating this misconception. Even Wikipedia, the popular online Web site, plainly states that “The terms mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor head trauma, and concussion may be used interchangeably.”

If people believe that a concussion is so mild, we invite them to review the following details: 

1) Did you know that the word concussion comes from the Latin word concutere which means TO SHAKE VIOLENTLY.

2) Concussion side effects can include physical,

cognitive and emotional impairments. Think that’s mild? These side effects can range from blurred vision and headaches to convulsion and amnesia. In severe cases, psychiatric disorders and even long-term memory loss (including a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s) are possible. Hardly mild.

Don’t get us wrong, in nearly all cases, people who sustain a concussion will live a happy, healthy and fully functional life.  We just need to make sure our facts are straight, especially from the resources we use to learn.

Concussions are a brain injury, not a “mild injury,” not a “mild head trauma”…  A brain injury.

Courtesy WebMD