Brian Pope, M.D., Shiland Family Medicine
Q: I’m worried about head injuries during sports. How do I know if my child needs medical attention?
A: Unfortunately, head injuries to athletes are common and can have serious consequences. We are seeing increases in the rates of concussions at all levels of sport.
Any blow to the head — even one that appears to be relatively minor — can cause either a concussion (a change in the way the brain functions) or a structural injury (such as a fractured skull or swelling/tearing of a blood vessel or artery in the brain). If not adequately recognized and treated, any of these injuries can have serious consequences.
It’s important to be on the lookout for signs of head injuries, because symptoms can sometimes be quite subtle. Any change in mental function should alert you to a possible concussion. The more common symptoms are headache, confusion, nausea, “foggy headedness” or fatigue. The symptoms of a structural head injury may show up right away or may develop slowly over several hours, so it’s important to know what to look for and what to do if your child is hurt.
Immediately call an ambulance if your child suffers from any of these symptoms:
-bleeding from the nose, ears or mouth
-an inability to speak or see properly
-seizures or loss of bladder or bowel control
Any athlete with a suspected concussion or head injury should be removed from competition immediately and should not be allowed to return until cleared by a trained medical professional such as a physician or a certified athletic trainer. Stay with the injured party. Check on him or her periodically, even waking your child through the night to look for any worsening. Be on the lookout for any difference in mental function. If there’s a major change, go to the emergency department for an exam.
For more information on head injuries, watch this video below featuring Dr. Pope.
The Carolinas Concussion Network(CCN) offers expertise in the identification, diagnosis and management of concussions for all ages. This network consists of a team of specialists from various fields of medicine with expertise in brain injury to optimize recovery time and return to work or play.