Q: [School-Aged] My ten-year-old son plays nearly every sport and with all the news about concussions, I’m worried about some of the hits that go along with the game. I’ve read about a baseline test you can get, so you can tell if your child actually has a concussion after a game time injury. Do those work? Is that worth it?
A: For a parent, little is more frightening than watching your child get hit in the head. One of the most worrying things I see as a doctor is lack of awareness about health impacts of a concussion. I see them occurring most often in football and soccer, sports that involve directives to tackle a player or strike a ball with one’s head. Concussions have been a threat to student athletes for decades, and unfortunately, younger players are more at risk. Research has shown that the developing brain of adolescents aged 12-19 is more susceptible to the effects of concussion, and more likely to suffer from the long-term brain damage that can result from one or more concussions.
If you see your child take a hit on the field, even if it isn’t a hit to the head, there are a number of important signs to look for that might point to a concussion. Forgetfulness, dizziness or nausea, or newly sensitive to light are signs you should probably see a health professional. Vomiting, blurred vision and unconsciousness shortly after a head injury are strong signals to take your child to a doctor as soon as possible. Lack of concentration or inability to focus on schoolwork could be apparent days after a concussion occurs.
Parents also often ask about tests they or coaches can perform to detect a concussion. In all cases, a healthcare professional should evaluate your child’s injury. However, a new study released in March suggested that a simple test known as the King-Devick test, in which athletes are timed while they read a series of numbers, could help identify whether a concussion occurred.
A full recovery is incredibly important, because it may help avoid another concussion with exponentially worse effects. When we do see a child with a concussion, we usually tell parents to limit the child’s access to any forms of stimulation, including TVs, tablets, cell phones and, yes, even schoolwork.
Dr. Farzad Massoudi is a board-certified neurosurgeon, President of Orange County Neurosurgical Associates and director of the Neuroscience and Spine Institute at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, part of the St. Joseph Health network.