Getting Ahead of the
Game on Concussions

As the weather warms up, kids and parents looking forward to spring sports and getting outside to play. In case a good-natured game turns to injury, the staff at the Texas Health Ben Hogan Concussion Center urge parents, coaches and players to learn a new set of guidelines for handling concussions, and use their heads to help avoid long-term consequences of brain injury.

Research shows that children and teens take longer to heal from a head injury than adults. Also, a common misconception is that concussions are caused only by blows to the head, when in fact concussions can also happen without impact by the head being shaken.

"Most people don't understand that you don't have to get hit in the head to have a concussion. Sometimes, the milder the injury, the worse the concussion," says Dr. Martha Grimm, an emergency medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and medical director of Texas Health Ben Hogan Concussion Center Plano. "Many times, repeated injury or rotational forces can be worse than a single hit to the head, so determining their amount and severity can be difficult for players and coaches."

Parents and coaches should utilize the following recommendations for a player who is showing signs of concussion:

  • No child or adolescent athlete should ever return to play on the same day of an injury, regardless of level of athletic performance and no matter how mild the symptoms may seem.
  • Children take longer to recover from even a mild brain injury, and will require more time to heal than an adult with the same injury.
  • It is imperative that the first three days after the injury, the player have as little cognitive and visual stimulation as possible, including TV, texting, video games, etc. The darker and quieter the room the better. The child is encouraged to simply rest to allow the brain time to heal. Sleeping is fine.

It's important that parents and coaches educate players and learn to be aware of the signs of concussion, which can include:

  • Worsening headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Inability to recognize people and places
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Unsteadiness
  • Slurred speech

Players should be taken to the ER immediately if there is a change in mental status, they are vomiting, having trouble walking or speaking, or if they are confused or experience a loss of consciousness. Otherwise, kids can be watched at home with the mandatory three days of rest by their parents.

"Education is going to be what saves lives and protects brains in the future," Dr. Grimm said. "As parents and coaches, we need to ensure that athletes are aware and are making good choices."

As Dr. Grimm says, that's using your head.