Concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries are typically caused by impact to the head, or by the severe, sudden shaking of the body. They are very common among child athletes and active children. Unfortunately, when concussions occur, they create biochemical processes in the brain tissue making the brain vulnerable to long-term injury, unless proper treatment and recovery occur.
The most common cause of concussion is a hit to the head that causes the brain to move. CT scans are normally performed since there is no bleeding or gross abnormality of the anatomy of the brain. Some special MRI tests can show changes after time, however, there is no one test to show evidence of mild traumatic brain injury.
The best test is a neurological exam performed by a physician that can show an abnormality. There is evidence which shows, children and adolescents who suffer a mild traumatic brain injury for a second time while recovering from the first, may develop a more severe injury. It is imperative that the child recovers before returning to sports or any activity that could cause further damage to the brain.
After a brain Injury, most children appear to be fatigued and may exhibit alternating signs of depression or euphoria, headaches, changes in appetite, and an overall change in mood. These are subtle signs that may be missed by parents. Mild traumatic brain injury usually does not cause loss of consciousness, vomiting, change in mental status, or some other more serious neurological signs. The accepted course of recovery is brain rest. Brain rest is defined as interruption of all activities that require comprehension such as reading, listening to music, watching TV or videos, texting, or talking. Most patients require this for one week. After all symptoms have abated, children are allowed to return to school part time for one week. If symptoms continue to be controlled, then they may return to school full time the following week. Sports typically are not resumed for an average of one month. Children who have persisting symptoms will require a specialist’s attention for vestibular therapy or further medical testing.
So, remember, If your child hits their head, look for subtle signs of trauma and have them see their primary care provider at Pediatric Care Group for an examination to rule out a mild traumatic brain injury.