Imagine this: your child is playing a game of soccer or basketball. As they go to kick the ball or defend a shot, they accidentally collide with another player and they both end up on the ground, dazed and a little stunned. Or this: As you’re driving home, you’re involved in a rear-end collision that tosses you violently forward and back, leaving you with a headache and feeling dizzy.
What do these situations have in common? Both can cause a concussion, a traumatic brain injury resulting from a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
“Concussions can happen to anyone, during any activity,” says Dr. Melinda Dunn, a family physician in Overland Park, Kansas. “You don’t have to be playing a sport – it could be a fall, or other accident. Even a mild concussion can have serious implications.”
As a family doctor, Dunn takes care of patients of all ages, from babies and young children, teenagers, adults and older adults. Dunn is trained to address a broad spectrum of health issues including chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and acute injuries such as concussions.
As students head back to school and fall team sports begin, it’s especially important for parents to be aware of the causes and symptoms of a concussion. According to familydoctor.org, more than half of the emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries are for children 5 to 18 years of age. While we most commonly hear about them in the news related to football, concussions can happen in almost any sport or activity.
Knowing what to look for after a blow to the head is important so you can take steps to prevent more serious damage in the future. Symptoms of a concussion may include a headache, trouble focusing, memory loss, a dazed appearance, confusion, dizziness or balance issues, blurry vision, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise and changes in mood, behavior or sleep. Signs may show up soon after the injury, but some symptoms may not show up for hours or even days.
If you suspect a concussion, contact your family doctor. Be prepared to tell them what happened as well as what symptoms are present. If the incident occurred during a sporting event, parents should not let their child return to play until they have been medically cleared.
Once someone has experienced a concussion, the risk of having another goes up. And a second concussion can be more severe.
“Safety should always be the first priority,” Dunn says. “There’s no guaranteed way to prevent a concussion, but you can lower your risk by wearing properly fitted protective gear like a helmet and always wearing your seatbelt.”
For more information on concussion symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment, go to familydoctor.org.