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NEINH: Concussion Prevention & Treatment in Children

As we begin thinking about back to school activities and sports, we all want to make sure our kids, no matter their age, stay safe! But when it comes to concussions we all have a lot of questions about exactly how to do that. So, we turned to Dr. Kate Mullin with the New England Institute for Neurology and Headache (NEINH) to find out what you need to know when it comes to preventing and treating concussions.

What are the 5 most important things parents should know about preventing concussion in children?

Unfortunately, kids will be kids and fortunately, that still involves a lot of running around. The best thing we can do to help them protect themselves is to control for their environments as best we can.

For example, for the younger kids – appropriate car seats for weight and age installed and fastened correctly as well as child proof gates on stairs for toddlers.

Soft playground surfaces are also important. So that if your child does fall backwards off of a swing for example – it’s onto rubber playmats or sand and not concrete or dirt.

Parents have very strong opinions about what age their children should be able to play contact sports. It is important, at whatever age your child begins to engage in contact sports, that all regulations are enforced. This includes appropriate protective gear – helmets, pads etc, as well as sportsman like behavior and proper training on safely.

In which sports are concussions most common?

Concussions can occur in ALL sports even those that are not considered “contact”. The most common sports for a concussion to occur are American football, ice hockey, rugby, soccer and basketball. I also see a lot of concussion in field hockey which is very much a contact sport but requires no padding or helmets.

What surprises parents when you speak to them about concussions?

It’s important for parents to know that you do not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion.

What are the signs/symptoms to look for in kids?

Parents may observe certain signs that children aren’t themselves aware of- there may be an initial confusion, a dazed expression. They may walk off the field clumsily. Children will seem sleepier and moodier. Their speech may seem slow like they’re having a hard time finding words or they may ask the same question as if they did not hear or retain your answer.

There are also symptoms that the children will readily report. This includes headache, a feeling of dizziness or imbalance, having a hard time concentrating, nausea, light or sound sensitivity and just feeling overall “not themselves”.

What should you do if you think your child might have a concussion?

The most important thing you can do initially is to pull them from play. There should be no further contact sports until they are evaluated at a concussive center such as NEINH where we will see your child the same day for a thorough neurologic exam and a specific recovery plan.

What are the most common treatments for children with concussions?

The tincture of time is the best remedy. More often than not concussion symptoms will resolve over the next few weeks following the insult.

In general, we recommend removing most external stimuli (no school, no playdates, limited screen time etc.) for the first 48 hours. After that we recommend a gradual stepwise reintroduction of activities, whether they be cognitive or physical, until your child is able to do their regular daily activities without exacerbating symptoms. This process can be slow and tedious. But if you try to rush recovery and put your child back in school or sports too quickly- you’ll likely prolong their return to baseline.

NEINH has a Personalized Concussion Care Center with a fully integrated clinical and research center providing individualized care to children, adolescents and adults who have suffered a concussion. The team consists of neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, nurses, vestibular physical therapists, massage therapists and dietitians are experts in the field of concussion assessment and management.

Their program has 3 main goals:

  1. Providing the highest level of medical care to children, adolescents and adults with concussions, to allow for the fastest safest return to school, sports or work.
  2. Increasing research-based knowledge, skills and instrumentation used in evaluation and treatment of concussion
  3. Improving the general knowledge of our community in regard to early recognition of concussion signs and symptoms and proper management of concussion to prevent long term complications.

This post is sponsored by the New England Institute for Neurology & Headache, located at 30 Buxton Farm Road (Ste 230) in Stamford.
To find out more or book an appointment, go to neinh.com or call (203) 914-1900.
(Photos c/o Unsplash)

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