GET A FLASHLIGHT AND DON'T LET HER FALL ASLEEP!
This is something I hear often from my wife whenever one of our kids hits their head. And with four kids, that happens pretty often.
But I started thinking, do either of us actually know what we are looking for when we grab the flashlight? And is that an actual symptom of a problem?
So I reached out to Dr. Creighton Shute, who has extensive experience with traumatic brain injuries as the head of multiple brain injury facilities throughout his medical career.
Here are some of things I wanted to know:
WHAT ACTIVITIES PRODUCE THE MOST CONCUSSIONS
Dr. Shute: The obvious answer to that is football produces the most concussions, and then in my practice number two is actually cheerleading. And most people think about the flyers, you know the girls that are thrown up in the air, but actually it's the bases, the girls who are on the ground doing the throwing, that have girls land on top of them. And those are the ones that actually get concussions.
IS THERE ANY PART OF THE HEAD THAT IS MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO A CONCUSSION?
Dr Shute: I mean the answer is yes, there are certain parts of the head that maybe flex more than others or the skull could be thinner in certain places, but generally speaking, you can get concussions from impact on any part of the head.
OUR KIDS HIT THEIR HEADS ALL THE TIME. PARTICULARLY OUR TWO YEAR OLD WHO WILL BANG HIS HEAD WHEN HE IS MAD. AND MY WIFE ALWAYS TELLS ME TO GET THE FLASHLIGHT AND KEEP HIM AWAKE. BUT WHAT SHOULD YOU ACTUALLY DO IF YOU SUSPECT A CONCUSSION OR HEAD INJURY?
Dr. Shute: So with a child, especially a small child that you're having trouble communicating with, it's important to understand what their baseline is. If you see changes to their personality, or if they were to hit their head and lose consciousness, they probably should be seen by a medical professional. It's really just about change in personality or change in behavior.
You know if he's throwing a temper tantrum and is hitting his head against the table, if he continues to throw the temper tantrum he's probably okay. He'll probably stop when it hurts enough. But you know the concern for concussion would be let's say several minutes after that he all the sudden becomes lethargic, or he starts throwing up a bunch, or he starts having just general changes in his personality. You know it's different for every child.
YOU KNOW MY WIFE KEEPS TELLING ME TO KEEP THE KID AWAKE. IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THAT?
Dr. Shute: No, that's actually an old wives' tail. So if a diagnosis of a concussion is actually given, the treatment for that is rest. The rest that we're talking about is getting someone on a good sleep schedule and actually allowing them to sleep because getting into sub-REM sleep is actually where we recover from concussions the best.
WHAT ABOUT A PARENT OF A FOOTBALL PLAYER. SAY THEY HAVE A GAME ON FRIDAY NIGHT AND YOU DON'T WITNESS ANYTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY. IS THERE A GOOD PRACTICE JUST TO MAKE SURE THEY DON'T HAVE A CONCUSSION?
Dr. Shute: If nothing particular has happened during the game and nobody has expressed any concern, then just observation is fine. But if you start noticing:
- personality changes
- they seem to have loss of memory especially memory of the game
- they ask the same question over and over again
- they are complaining of visual disturbances, light hurting their eyes, or ringing in their ears
- any nausea or vomiting
- or if anything you notice seems a little off and it seems to be progressing
All of those are concerning. But at the end of the day, if you are concerned about whether or not someone has a concussion or if someone else is concerned, you really just should have them seen by a medical professional.
Call the pediatrician, go to an emergency room or go to an urgent care clinic. Any licensed physician should be able to see and assess someone with a concussion.
I can tell you the best place in Acadiana, if you really want to send someone to the best, you can contact Tommy Dean at Concussion Solutions or just contact the Sports Medicine Fellowship at UHC.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF AN UNDIAGNOSED CONCUSSION?
Dr. Shute: Well, that's sort of depends on whether or not someone has gone back to high-risk activity and had secondary injuries or third and fourth injuries on top of it without fully recovering. At the end of the day with a concussion, over time patients should get better with rest. A single concussion, by definition, is temporary and shouldn't cause any permanent problems. The problem really exists when you have multiple injuries on top of each other without fully recovering between injuries.
If a concussion is identified, actually by Louisiana law that person cannot return to that activity until they have been released by a licensed professional.
So the bottom line is…if you are concerned about a possible concussion or if someone else has expressed concern about a possible concussion, the person just should be seen by a medical professional.
Thanks, Dr. Shute, for this valuable information!