The following scenario is fictional, but could represent any child, anywhere….
Liz was a spectacular soccer player. She made the varsity team her freshman year. Her teammates stated that she was destined to be a star; her parents counted on the college scholarship they were sure she’d receive.
During one particularly close game, Liz tripped and landed head-first on the field. A time out was called. Her teammates helped her up and off the field where she sat out the rest of the game.
Within the next week, Liz started laving difficulty at school. She complained of frequent headaches. She was very tired. She lashed out verbally at her friends when she didn’t remember what they were talking about. Usually a good student, Liz was now struggling to take notes and daily missed the assigned homework.
Although her symptoms were difficult to pinpoint, and even more difficult to diagnosis-Liz’s parents eventually realized she was different than she used to be–even a few weeks ago. She could be displaying a teenage “funk”, but maybe it was something else…
Fortunately for Liz, her parents were at the game when she fell on her head and discussed these events and symptoms with her doctor. She was diagnosed with a concussion and was suffering from a mild brain injury. More often than not, parents are not even aware of a mild brain injury and/or do not seek medical attention. Because of an early diagnosis, Liz’s family was able to seek support and help early on. They were told to continue watching for symptoms and changes and hold a meeting with the school to discuss these issues. If Liz did not regain her skills in memory, attention, focus, and personality, they were instructed to conduct a full assessment medically and educationally and consider special education services to assist Liz at home and school.
Facts about concussions that I learned from a recent conference on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) taught by Pat Sublette, PhD:
- Most (90%) concussions will result in symptoms that recover over a few weeks
- 10% of concussions will have lifelong effects
- symptoms may not occur until later (no immediate effects)
- children may not lose consciousness with a concussion
- concussions may cause cognitive changes: thinking, learning, behavior
- concussions may cause medical changes: headaches, vision, alertness, fatigue
- concussion may cause difficulties with language: understanding jokes, following directions
- a second concussion (before the first one is fully healed) is called Second Impact Syndrome. It can be fatal. Never engage in any risky behavior or sports until a concussion is FULLY healed.
- the CDC offers free guides and DVDs discussing High School sports and concussions. Order one for your school or yourself!
Words of advice: Stay alert and aware to changes in your child, especially after a fall. Talk to your doctor about any concerns even weeks after someone hits their head. Always wear helmets. Carefully monitor high risk sports: football, cheer leading, soccer, martial arts, biking, skateboarding, ice skating, boxing, horseback riding.
There are many videos online showing and talking about concussions and brain injury. Some are extremely difficult to stomach. Here is one that is hard to watch, but slightly less so than others.