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You’re in the stands cheering on your kid as he or she is playing their favourite sport, when suddenly, they take a hard hit to the head. You panic, rush to the sidelines, and make sure they are alright.
Checking for signs of a possible concussion, you and the coach agree to remove your child from the game and you head straight to the doctor.
Well done! The first step is to always take a significant hit to the head seriously. Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:
Most symptoms show up within minutes or hours, but others may take longer to appear. Getting to the hospital is always the right thing to do.
But what happens after the doctor confirms a concussion? What does the road to recovery look like and what should you do as a parent?
While each concussion is different, medical experts pinpoint early detection and brain rest as the first steps to helping concussed kids recover more completely. At their young ages, the brain is still developing and improper diagnosis, treatment, or too quick of a return to normal activity may lead to long-term problems.
Pediatric neurologists say that at minimum, two or three days of rest can help with such blows to the brain. That doesn’t just mean no sports or running around, but also no electronic devices, school work, video games, and anything else that can challenge or stress the brain.
A hard hit needs to be taken seriously. In Canada, 39% of all kids between 10 and 18 who visited an emergency facility following a sports-related head injuries were diagnosed with a concussion, while another 24% showed signs of possible concussion. Three sports in particular – football, soccer, and hockey – show a greater increase in reported head injuries in the decade between 2004 and 2014. Of course, sports are not the only cause of a concussion: falls, car crashes, and other whacks to the head can also cause a concussion. But no matter the cause of the injury, your focus needs to be on treatment and recovery.
There’s good news, though! Medical researchers in Nebraska found that 80 to 90% of sport concussions resolve in two to three weeks. This is if the child has been treated and follows medical advice. Doing so can also help prevent more serious brain injuries at a time when the child is vulnerable to other jolts to the head. If the problem persists beyond that point, another trip to the doctor is in order.
Catching a concussion early, preventing further activity, and seeking immediate medical attention are all helpful steps to healthy attitudes and healthy kids.
If you’ve ever had a concussion, you know recovery takes a while. It can be hard to think clearly or perform some routine functions for some time. So what about driving? New research is showing that in many cases, driving after a concussion is a dangerous idea.
Researchers at the University of Georgia have found that concussed drivers show some very erratic driving behaviours that linger well after the initial injury. Using a driving simulator (similar to the one used by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the video below), the team tested reactions to various driving situations, as well as everyday conditions.
Two tests were run and compared. The first was within two days of the injury. They then repeated it when the test subjects said they were no longer feeling the effects of their concussion.
Julianne Schmidt led the study. She noted that concussed drivers in the simulation had showed a number of potentially dangerous driving patterns. “They swerved more within the lane,” she said. “This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered.”
Some of the reactions in the test were described as being like those of a drunk driver.
If you have suffered a concussion, be very cautious about driving. Depending on the severity of your injury, it may not even be an option for a long time. Always seek advice from medical professionals and get help from your friends and family before you get behind the wheel. You don’t want to put your life and others in danger.
So if you’ve had a concussion or think you’ve suffered one:
And remember, there are services available to help you with your concussion recovery and getting you back on track.
Concussions are mysterious to many of us but medical science is getting better at understanding how to test, treat, and aid recovery from them. Here are three recent breakthroughs you should know about – two of them from right here in Canada.
New blood test for concussions
A Canadian team of researchers have made a major discovery in how to identify and diagnose patients with a concussion. The answer may be in your blood. The team has found a blood test that they claim has a 90 per cent rate of accuracy.
Currently, concussions are diagnosed by medical imaging technology or a complex list of observations and physical tests. A blood test, though, would simplify the process and enable medical professionals to diagnose and treat concussions faster.
The blood test measures metabolite levels in the blood. These leave chemical fingerprints that can tell what’s happening in the brain. While it’s not the first time researchers have looked to blood tests to try and diagnose concussions, this is one of the most promising findings for early detection.
Blood protein a measure of severity
If you’ve ever had a concussion, you know it can be both a painful and confusing experience with a long and unpredictable recovery ahead. Researchers in New York State have discovered that, once again, our blood can help determine the severity of the concussion with a view to predicting recovery time.
In a study of concussed athletes, they discovered that a higher level of the brain protein tau in the blood can lead to a longer recovery period. Tau is a protein found in the human body and is linked to brain cell damage. Higher levels in the blood indicate a more severe injury.
In the test group, the athletes with high levels took longer than 10 days to return to play while those with less got back sooner. While more research is needed, the results have researchers hopeful that measuring tau proteins in the blood can help with diagnosing the severity of a concussion and predicting a patient’s recovery time.
Light exercise can help recovery in kids
Another Canadian team has found light exercise may help some concussed kids recover faster. Resting and slowing down have been common treatments for concussions, but researchers in Ottawa have found that light physical activity can help mend some young brains.
Looking at over 3000 youngsters ages 5 to 18 who were treated for concussions, the team found that those who did some light physical activity in the first week after their injury saw faster improvements than those who did not. For those restricted to bed rest, nearly half (44%) continued to show symptoms a month later, while a quarter of those who were out doing light walks, swimming, or stationary cycling reported fewer lingering symptoms in the same time frame.
Certainly, if a child has suffered a concussion as a result of a sporting activity, he or she should be pulled from play, but it is promising to see the positive impact of light exercise on their recovery.
All it takes is one blow to the head and your life can be changed forever. Concussions are becoming all too common, especially among young people. And new research is showing that the consequences of just one concussion can have long-term effects on your mental, intellectual, and physical abilities.
Scientists from universities in the US, the UK, and Sweden collaborated on the study. Looking at a set of Swedish people who had suffered a head injury before age 25, they made some startling discoveries.
The first finding is economic in nature. Those who had experienced just one concussion or mild traumatic brain injury in their youth were much more likely to be receiving disability payments as an adult. They were also less likely to have finished high school or to have moved on to higher education or training.
The group also experienced more health problems. They were more likely to seek help for mental health issues, they suffered more lingering physical problems, and were more likely to die early in life. The situation was worse for a concussion after the age of 15 – an important time in human development when the brain is still growing.
That’s also an age when a lot of kids are heavily involved in sports with a higher risk of head injury, such as hockey, soccer, rugby, and football. All the more reason to make sure your kids are playing safe and wearing protective gear. And if they do get hurt, it’s why you should pull them out of play. Their future health and success is far more important than a high school trophy.
A new sport season is about to kick off and that means all sorts of active fun. But are your kids playing it safe? If they do get hurt, do you know how to identify a concussion? And do you know what to do? These are questions every parent should be asking themselves whenever their child begins a sport.
A fall, a bump, a knock, or blow to the body can happen in almost any sport. But if the force from that hit affects your head, it can injure your brain and leave you with a concussion.
Kids are more susceptible to suffering a concussion because their bodies haven’t fully developed. They’re smaller, have weaker muscles, and thinner skulls than adults. They’re also more active, rambunctious, and not fully aware of the risks.
While we hear a lot about concussions in contact sports like football and hockey, it doesn’t mean those are the only ones. Young athletes can also get concussed taking part in all sorts of sports activities – soccer, skiing, field hockey, and cycling.
If your child has taken hit to the head, you need to know what to watch for. Common concussion symptoms include:
If any of these symptoms are present and you think your kid has suffered a concussion, take immediate action. The first step is an immediate stop to all play. No sporting moment, big or small, is worth risking your child’s health. After that, seek medical help. That means a trip to the emergency room or the family doctor for a proper assessment. Once they’re home, keep them hydrated, rested, and off the field of play. Recovering from a concussion is a serious matter and it takes time.
If left untreated, a concussion can lead to bigger problems down the road – including permanent brain injury and even death. And no game or trophy is worth risking that.
Five years ago, a young hockey player at the top of his game sustained a couple of heavy blows to his head. The resulting concussion was devastating – sidelining his career and putting his health in serious jeopardy. With June being Brain Injury Awareness Month across Canada, we immediately think of this man’s accomplishments and struggles with brain injury.
This week, that young man is making a triumphant return to the arena where he has long made his mark. You may have heard of him. His name is Sidney Crosby. And this week he is making his third appearance in a Stanley Cup Final – the first since sustaining a serious concussion in January of 2011.
Of course, Vancouverites will know Sid the Kid by his Golden Goal. The whole city – indeed the whole of Canada – cheered ecstatically when he brought down the curtain on the 2010 Olympics with that breathtaking goal in overtime against the American squad.
Sadly, a year later, Number 87’s spectacular career was thrown into a tailspin following his concussion. His recovery lasted years. So as he laced up this week for his latest appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, we remember the long road he took to get here.
Of course, you don’t have to be an Olympic or Stanley Cup champion to know or suffer the impact of a brain injury. That’s what Brain Injury Awareness Month is all about.
According to the Brain Injury Association of Canada, 160,000 Canadians sustain a brain injury each year and over a million live with the effects of an acquired brain injury. The statistics also show that half of those injuries result from falls and motor vehicle accidents.
The good news is that many brain injuries are preventable, especially in sports. The first tip is to always wear a helmet when biking, playing contact sports, or engaging in activities like rollerblading, skiing, or snowboarding where falls are common. Helmets do not always prevent concussions, but properly designed and fitted helmets are your best first line of defense.
Of course, not everything in life can be prevented. Car crashes, falls, and other events can’t be anticipated. Fortunately, the majority of brain injuries are treatable if diagnosed early enough. If you’ve been in an accident or fall and think you’ve sustained a brain injury, go get treatment!
A brain injury is always something to take seriously. Without proper attention, diagnosis, and treatment, the situation can easily worsen with further problems developing down the road. The impact of a brain injury can take only seconds to happen but it can last a lifetime.
Did you know up to 3.8-million cases of sports-related head trauma will occur this year in North America alone?
Public anxiety is at an all-time high after an autopsy revealed that former NFL player Tyler Sash suffered from an extreme case of CTE. Tyler had displayed irrational behaviour before he died from an accidental overdose of pain medication.
To combat sports related concussions, a group of local university students invented the HeadCheck Health app. The app will be used by trainers to assess potential concussions by measuring player cognition and balance. The app’s unique algorithm is designed to eliminate human error when diagnosing a concussion. Therapists and medical personnel will use the app on children.
Gunter Siegmund, and international expert in injury biomechanics and an adjunct professor at UBC says, “If it can be just as useful in the real world as it is in the lab, the need for better concussion assessment tools is there.”
A local Vancouver company has begun selling a helmet sticker, BrainShield, designed to prevent concussions. According to The Vancouver Sun, BrainShield is compatible with all helmets, and it has the potential to reduce head injuries for sports teams, cyclists and motorcycle riders.
“It can significantly reduce the sharp twisting and compression of the brain,” said Daniel Abram, the company’s chief technology and operating officer. It acts like a seatbelt for the brain to prevent or reduce concussions.
According to their Kickstarter site, the majority of helmets are designed, tested, and certified for compression force only. However, almost all head impacts cause severe twisting and rotational acceleration in addition to brain compression.
The BrainShield helmet patch is made of micro-engineered layers that divert angled impacts reducing the rotational acceleration that causes concussions.
According to CBC, Reebok-CCM has been told by the Competition Bureau that it cannot claim its hockey helmets prevent concussions. A Virginia Tech study found helmets don’t prevent concussions, though they will protect against skull fractures. Researchers assessed the effectiveness of helmets based on the rotational and linear acceleration that occurs in a concussion or brain injury.
In its warning to Reebok, the Competition Bureau stated the role of helmets and concussion prevention remains unclear. Reebok has agreed to remove concussion safety claims from all marketing material.
According to the Sports Concussion Institute, a concussion occurs when the brain moves rapidly inside the skull. The brain is a three-pound organ that floats in cerebral spinal fluid inside the skull. The spinal fluid acts as a shock absorber for minor impacts but it doesn’t provide total protection against concussion.
Concussions are a common injury in BC with young people most likely to be injured. In 2011, Lower Mainland hospitals treated 16,888 people for concussion. The leading cause of these concussions were falls (32.5%), sports and recreational activities (18.0%) and being struck by or against an object (9.4%).
A concussion, which is a form of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), is caused when the brain is jolted against the inside of the skull. Different areas of the brain move at different speeds resulting in shearing forces that can damage nerve tissue. Concussion victims may lose consciousness due to impaired nerve cells.