A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to shake. The shaking can cause the brain to not work normally and can result in serious side effects. Each year, thousands of children and youth are diagnosed with concussion — only half are sports related.
Concussions can occur even when a child does not lose consciousness. In fact, only 10 percent of children with concussions report being “knocked out.” Some of the symptoms of a concussion can appear immediately after the injury, while others may not show up for several days. Symptoms may last days, weeks or months. Sometimes symptoms may be subtle and not obvious.
The symptoms of a concussion are related to how well the brain cells are functioning and working together. The most common symptoms are related to four groups: physical, sleep, thinking/remembering, and mood disruption.
Headache, Nausea and vomiting, Balance problems, Slowed reaction time, Dizziness, Sensitivity to light, Sensitivity to sound, Fuzzy or blurry vision
Often, symptoms will worsen over a matter of days, and it is common for new symptoms to appear in the days following the injury. Symptoms may also worsen when the brain is stressed, for example, when a child is doing schoolwork or participating in a physical activity.
Mood disruption More emotional Irritable Sad Nervous Depressed
Thinking/remembering Difficulty concentrating Difficulty remembering Confusion Feeling “mentally foggy” Feeling slowed down
Sleep Sleeping more or less than usual Trouble falling asleep Feeling fatigued or drowsy
- Seizures (twitching or jerking movement of parts of the body; may look stiff)
- Weakness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Confused, restless or agitated
- Difficult to arouse or unable to awaken
- Repeated vomiting
- Blurred speech
- Bloody or clear fluid from the nose or ears
Your child should see her primary care doctor if you think she has a concussion. The primary care doctor can discuss symptoms and help you create a plan. Initial treatment for a concussion is rest, both mental and physical. Rest allows the brain to heal.