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Dr. Sue Kirelik Answers the Top Ten Questions About Concussions

1. Do concussions affect children differently than adults?  

Yes, kids, especially teens take longer to recover than adults.

2. What are the symptoms of a concussion in children?

One of the most common symptoms is a headache, but not every patient with a concussion will have a headache. Symptoms can vary among individuals and may include change in level of alertness, sleepiness, confusion or amnesia, nausea, dizziness and visual complaints such as double or blurry vision. Many report cognitive symptoms such as trouble concentrating or remembering things and mental fogginess. They might also develop emotional symptoms and sleep disturbances.

3. Why are concussions in children often overlooked?

Sometimes the symptoms are not obvious right away and show up 1-3 days after the injury so the symptoms are not recognized as concussion. The symptoms are non-specific, meaning there are many things that can cause similar symptoms so parents may think their child is ill.

4. How dangerous are concussions for children?  

We believe that a well managed concussion from which a child recovers fully likely does not have any long term effects, but the truth is that we just don’t know. What we really need are long term studies that analyze kids with and without concussions for many years so we can track results. 

There is limited evidence that multiple concussions can cause cumulative injury and that those who don't recover fully have long term problems from concussion such as learning difficulties, cognitive difficulties, chronic headaches, depression and/or anxiety. However, we need more evidence-based information to determine if this is a common problem. 

5. What conditions can be confused for concussion symptoms?

A migraine headache that is not concussion related is the most common thing that can be mistaken for concussion. It’s really important to have a medical evaluation if you think your child has a concussion.

6. Can a concussion cause allergy-like symptoms? 

No, allergies cause nasal itching and congestion, eye redness, watering and itching, cough, wheezing and trouble breathing and sometimes rashes like hives. Concussion does not cause these symptoms.  

7. If my son feels fine after suffering a concussion, can he still play?

Not until he has been cleared from the concussion by an appropriate medical provider. Clearance is very important because sometimes the patient might feel they are back to normal, but we can see things through a physical exam or cognitive testing that tells us the concussion might not be healed. Clearance before return to sports is also required by state law. In the state of Colorado, medical clearance can only be provided by an MD, DO, Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant or a doctoral level psychologist with training in concussion. You cannot be cleared by a chiropractor, athletic trainer or physical therapist.

8. Are concussions serious?

Yes, concussions are serious. It is an injury to your brain. While there are some things we can do to help the recovery, you only have 1 brain, and it’s the most essential body part to function as a human so we take concussions seriously. All concussions need a medical evaluation.

9. What’s the difference between a ding and a concussion?

There is no difference. The term ding means that your head doesn’t feel right after you’ve had trauma to your head. That is usually a concussion.

10. How should I care for someone who may have a concussion? 

Early on rest is very important, but once they start feeling better, care needs to be individualized. For details on how to manage a concussion refer to the REAP booklet on our website at Center4Concussion.com