Western Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health
Departments Health Links Calendar Archived Issues Media Kit Contact Us
  Senior Care Senior Living Camps & Activities for Special Needs Children Ask the Expert  

Concussions Among Children: What You Need to Know
By Daniel Casciato

Most head injuries, such as concussions, are mild allowing you to make a complete recovery. However, if your child suffers a concussion, this poses a serious and complicated health risk.

“If your child sustains a concussion it’s important that the child is removed from their athletic activity immediately,” says Dr. Erin Shaffer, a family medicine practitioner with Washington Health System Lakeside Primary Care.  

An athlete should not continue to play in practice or a game if they had an injury to their head causing symptoms of a concussion. This also applies to children in gym class or recess, she adds.

“A second hit to the head during the initial injury of the concussion can be potentially life threatening,” Dr. Shaffer says. “The parent should then seek medical care for their child within the first few days of injury.”

If your child loses consciousness after a head injury, don’t wait—they should be seen in the emergency room immediately.

Signs of a Concussion

Signs of a concussion varies for each person. Symptoms can start immediately; however, it may also be delayed minutes to hours after the trauma. Associated symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Balance changes
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Neck pain
  • Mood changes such as agitation or depression
  • Visual symptoms including blurred vision or double vision
  • Concentration issues
  • Abnormalities of the sleep cycle

Diagnosing a Concussion

Unfortunately, there are few objective tests to diagnose a concussion. Most concussions are diagnosed based on patient-reported symptoms and a thorough neurological exam performed by your healthcare provider.

“A CT scan of the brain may be performed in the initial stages of a head injury,” says Dr. Shaffer. “This is used to rule out a bleed surrounding the brain but doesn’t diagnose the concussion.”

Not everyone with a diagnosed concussion needs a CT scan. It’s a clinical decision made by the healthcare provider based on symptoms and exam. Neurocognitive testing can also be helpful to evaluate for a concussion.

“Concussion research continues to develop testing which will better help us diagnose a concussion,” she adds. “Currently, blood tests to help aid with the diagnosis of concussion are being researched.”

Treatment for Concussions

The treatment of concussions has changed drastically over the past few decades and currently there is no standard treatment.

“As physicians, we follow recommendations made by expert panels but incorporate the clinical picture of the patient in all decision making,” says Dr. Shaffer. “The most important treatment is removing a patient from the environment of injury. An example would be to remove a football player from practice or a game so they can be evaluated by their healthcare provider. A second impact too close to an initial concussion could be life threatening.”

It’s recommended the patient initially rest after being diagnosed with a concussion. The timeframe someone should rest has not been well defined. The time someone has complete physical and cognitive rest has decreased over the years, notes Dr. Shaffer.

“The injured individual should rest physically as well as cognitively for example decreased electronics such as watching TV, playing video games, computer and cell phone usage until symptoms are minimal,” Dr. Shaffer says. “A concussion may affect school or work and accommodations may be made by your healthcare provider.”

At Washington Health System Lakeside Primary Care, they offer neurocognitive testing which can be used to aid in diagnosis and recovery from a concussion.

“Personally, I did an additional year of training in sports medicine which does involve the diagnosis and treatment of concussions,” Dr. Shaffer explains.

The best way to protect your child from obtaining a concussion is making sure they’re practicing proper technique in their sport. Unfortunately, concussions are impossible to prevent completely.

“The intention of the helmet in sports is to decrease the incidence of skull and facial fractures but unfortunately do not protect our children from concussions,” says Dr. Shaffer.

For more information, visit www.whs.org

Westmoreland County Special Edition Download a PDF version Advertise Subscribe for FREE
Subscribe to GTGH














CMS Housing – Apartments


WR Cameron Wellness Center

Medicare Specialists of Pittsburgh

East End Food Coop

Reserve This Space | Call 412-835-5796 or email goodhealthmag@aol.com

Western Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health. All rights reserved.

Send email to goodhealthmag@aol.com