Why Proper Concussion Testing Is Crucial In Children

A young girl getting concussion testing in southern california

It’s no secret that young athletes are at high risk of developing a concussion. But what many people don’t know is that concussions can affect any child, even if they’re just playing around the house.

Below are some important things you need to know about this serious brain injury.

What is a Concussion?

It is considered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) which may have lasting effects on an individual’s physical health. Common causes are a blow to the head sustained in a fall, a car crash, an accident, or participating in contact sports.

According to the Mayo Clinic, even forceful shaking of the head and upper body can result in concussions.

This condition isn’t usually life-threatening but can lead to serious repercussions if left untreated.

What Happens During a Concussion

When the head is struck so forcefully that the brain moves inside the skull, the movement stretches and sometimes breaks the neurons.

If neurons are broken, they are not able to communicate properly, hence making it difficult for the brain to do its job. Because the brain controls most of the body’s operations, a concussion makes it tough for anyone to function.

Symptoms to Watch Out for

If your child has fallen, got into a fight, or had an accident, they might need a concussion test. Be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Forgetfulness

According to Medline, some symptoms could indicate a more severe brain injury. Go to a hospital right away if your child experiences any of the following:

  • Inability to be woken up after injury
  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive vomiting

Some people can get concussions and not even know it. This is why it’s important to pay close attention to any changes in your child. The earlier the diagnosis, the better. Any delays might cause irreparable damage.

How are Concussions Diagnosed?

These are the three standard tests conducted for suspected concussions:

Baseline Testing

This is a series of pre-season injury tests done before a child’s first sports practice. A baseline test assesses their balance and brain functions such as concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills.

A computerized ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test) may be done for kids ages ten and above.

When an athlete is presumed to have a concussion, doctors can use baseline test results to identify any repercussions and decide if they can return to the season.

Sideline Concussion Testing

Also known as the King-Devick test, this 2-minute test can be done on the sidelines of a game by checking eye movement. If a child is injured during a game, their coach will have them read three test cards to see whether they need medical assistance.

Imaging Tests

To ensure there isn’t further damage to the brain, a doctor may also request an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan.

Risks of Delaying Diagnosis

Deferring a medical examination can lead to:

Second Impact Syndrome (SIS)

SIS typically happens when a person gets a second concussion without recovering from a previous one. It’s a relatively higher occurrence in sports like boxing, football, basketball, and soccer.

One study showed that prior to educational intervention, only 59.3% of parents reported being aware of SIS. This injury may be minor, but it still has a 50% mortality rate, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

CTE is a brain disorder that gradually gets worse over time. It is caused by frequent hits to the head and is often found in contact sports players. This type of brain damage can change a person’s behavior entirely.

Returning to Play

Resuming a game and normal daily life is important but should be a gradual process. Kids who want to continue with sports must slowly undergo the phases below (with 24 hours intervals):

  • 1st: Simple daily activities that do not provoke symptoms
  • 2nd: Light aerobic exercises
  • 3rd: Sports-related exercises
  • 4th: Non-contact training drills
  • 5th: Full contact practice
  • 6th: Return to the sport

Secure a medical clearance and advise your doctor before moving on to each phase.

Newport Children’s Medical Group

Concussions can have serious side effects on people of all ages, including children. Watch out for the warning signs to make sure your kids lead healthy, happy lives. The most important thing to remember is that the sooner a concussion is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chances of a quick recovery.

If you think your child may have a concussion, contact Newport Children’s Medical Group as soon as possible and schedule an appointment with one of our pediatricians at one of our four locations.