DEAR DOCTOR K: My son got a concussion playing football. His doctor said he shouldn’t play again until his symptoms have completely disappeared. What symptoms should we be looking out for?
DEAR READER: A concussion follows a physical blow or impact to the head that disturbs the way the brain works. While it sometimes causes a person to temporarily lose consciousness, it doesn’t always do that. It also can cause other symptoms that indicate the brain has been injured – and those can become apparent days or weeks after a person who has been knocked out regains consciousness. A concussion is a serious injury, more serious than we used to think.
Some symptoms may appear immediately and go away quickly. Others may not emerge for days or even weeks, and may last for a few months. Look out for the following concussion-related symptoms:
Headache; nausea; dizziness; fatigue; blurred vision; difficulty thinking, paying attention, remembering and learning; depression; irritability; poor sleep; frustration; poor focus.
There is no specific medicine used to treat a concussion. The best treatment is rest from physical and mental activity. Watch your son closely and contact his doctor if his symptoms get worse or if his behavior changes. Ask the doctor if your son should be excused from gym class or if he needs to limit his activities during recess. You may need to adjust your child’s schedule and schoolwork as well.
In the past five to 10 years, we’ve learned to take concussions – particularly repeated concussions – much more seriously. Recent studies of athletes who suffer repeated head injuries have revealed that permanent brain injury is more common than we used to think. Until we better understand the risks, I think it’s wise to be cautious about participating in contact sports – and to pamper anyone who has suffered a concussion.