By Rhonda Mann, Tufts Medical Center Staff
What physical injury sends more people to the doctor in Massachusetts than anywhere else in the country? Data from insurance claims and elsewhere suggests a surprising answer—concussion.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we experience more concussions in the Commonwealth than elsewhere – we could have more educated health consumers here who understand the importance of getting checked out after a blow to the head,” said Anthony Rodrigues, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist and specialist in chronic pain and headaches at Tufts Children's Hospital at Tufts Medical Center. “Because concussion can have such a profound effect on the brain, it is crucial for parents and any adult to know the warning signs.”
Here are some Q and A’s about the condition:
What qualifies as a concussion, versus a bad bump on the head?
There is no objective testing for a concussion. If a youth suffers an injury to the head or body, look for symptoms such as confusion, headache, amnesia, nausea, disorientation and dizziness. Symptoms can develop right away or hours (even the next day) after the injury.
How are concussions different for young people?
It’s important to note that adult brains heal faster. So while professional athletes may suffer a concussion and return to the playing field two weeks later, a child with a concussion could take months to recover. Not only are children’s brains softer and still developing, their neck muscles are not as strong as adults, so the head is more likely to undergo the acceleration/deceleration phenomenon that leads to concussions.
What should parents do if they suspect concussion?
If a concussion is suspected, children should be kept away from physical activity and visit their pediatrician immediately to get a plan in place for recovery. The treatment for a concussion is rest and that means ramping down on school work. With the child’s doctor, work out a plan that allows for missing some school, frequent classroom breaks, fewer tests and less homework. If the symptoms don’t get better after a few weeks, you should consult a neurologist.
Why is a second concussion during recovery so dangerous?
When the brain is not allowed to recover and another concussion occurs, it often cannot accommodate the second impact, causing severe brain swelling. In extreme cases, this syndrome, called Second Impact Syndrome, can lead to death. It can also lead to prolonged symptoms and impairment later in life. Allowing your child enough time to recover so that all symptoms subside is the key to continued brain health.
Updated January 2020
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