It’s an experience every parent has probably dealt with at one time. A child playing around takes a fall and hits his or her head on the ground or a stationary object. Unless the child is knocked out cold, most parents think it’s just one of many spills to come, and other then a few scrapes, it’s no big deal. However, that’s not always the case as there could be more damage done than what meets the eye.
Aaron Karlin, MD, is a pediatric sports medicine specialist physician and Director of the Ochsner Concussion Management Program. Dr. Karlin says people may not realize that a concussion, which is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, is a type of traumatic brain injury. Though in most cases it doesn’t lead to permanent damage, Dr. Karlin says someone with a concussion still needs prompt, proper treatment.
“When someone suffers a concussion, it disrupts the wiring of the brain and you usually won’t see it on a CT-Scan or MRI,” says Dr. Karlin. He compares the injury to that of a pulled muscle in the leg. “When you pull a muscle, you rest and allow it to heal. The same goes for a concussion. You have to shut the brain down so it can rest and heal. This includes limiting cognitive activities that stimulate the brain, like playing video games, watching TV or long periods of reading or schoolwork.”
When it comes to sports, ensuring full healing from a concussion before returning to athletics is crucial in preventing increased risk of recurrence or delayed healing. Long term effects, or even life-threatening brain injury, known as second impact syndrome, may occur from a second concussion happening before the first one has healed. Individuals who have suffered multiple concussions, generally three or more, may be more prone to repeat concussions and possibly increased risk for development of long-term symptoms including headaches, academic decline, emotionality and/or sleep disruption.
Dr. Karlin says the best way to protect your brain is to use common sense with activity choices and to always wear a helmet when biking, rollerblading or participating in any other activity or sport that could lead to a jolt to the head.
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