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Concussion: Treat Early for Best Recovery

Jason McHugh, DO, CAQSM, concussion

Jason McHugh, DO, CAQSM Medical Director, Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy and Sports Performance

Concussion: It’s the last thing parents want to think about when they’re watching their children play sports.

Yet concussions are one of the risks of playing sports – especially certain activities such as cheerleading, football, gymnastics, wrestling, field hockey and soccer.  To date, there is no helmet that can completely prevent a concussion from happening.  Instead, the best thing to do is to acknowledge the risk, help your child follow safety rules to reduce the likelihood of a concussion and to make sure they admit when they are injured.

“Ignoring a concussion is one of the biggest challenges to recovery,” said Jason McHugh, DO, CAQSM, and medical director at Bon Secours Sports Medicine and Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy and Sports Performance.  If your child sustains a concussion and continues to play, their recovery time can last several months instead of a few weeks. “The longer they go before they stop playing, the longer their recovery,” McHugh said.

In many cases, it’s up to the parents to watch their kids for symptoms.

Some athletes will keep symptoms to themselves so they can continue playing. However, it’s a dangerous gamble because a second head injury could be fatal.

Common symptoms include: dizziness, headache, light or noise sensitivity and nausea.  A person with a concussion might have difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating. They may sleep more, or less than usual. And emotionally, they may seem irritable, sad or anxious.

Sometimes, symptoms do not appear immediately. It could be days or months after the injury when symptoms become apparent.

It’s important to know that concussions can happen without a loss of consciousness and they do not show up on a CAT scan, X-ray or MRI.

Concussion Recovery Begins with Rest

If you think your child has a concussion, it’s best to have them stop playing and to seek medical attention. Just like other injuries, the brain needs to rest to heal. Children also recover slower than adults when it comes to concussions.

Parents and caregivers can help children heal by taking an active role in their recovery, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep and rest. Skip sleepovers and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Don’t allow your child to ride a bicycle, play sports, climb playground equipment or go on roller coasters or other rides that could bump their head.
  • Ask your child’s health care provider when they should return to school and other activities.
  • Adjust the amount of time your child spends at school so they can rest. Make sure they’re allowed more time to take exams, if needed.
  • Limit screen time. Watching TV, texting and using the Internet uses brain energy.

Parents can also protect their children by having a brain function test prior to the start of any sports season.

At Bon Secours In Motion, athletes undergo the ImPACT™ Neurocognitive Test to establish a baseline. If they suffer a concussion later, the baseline helps track their recovery so they can return to play safely.

Bon Secours In Motion also offers a concussion management program to help people recover from traumatic brain injuries. The program, which is tailored to a person’s individualized needs, includes brain exercises, eye exercises and exercises that improve blood flow to the brain.

“With the ImPACT testing and concussion management program, we can help athletes recover faster and return safely to their sport,” McHugh said.