7 Things to Expect Following Your Child's Sports Concussion

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- If your child has had a sports concussion, or is at risk for one, here are seven things you need to know, according to doctors at the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center:

1. Be Prepared to Wait!

When you contact your sports concussion physician, be prepared to wait 48-72 hours for your appointment. Why? Sometimes all of your child's symptoms won't appear right away. This brief wait gives your doctor time to see all symptoms caused by the concussion and treat accordingly. However, don't wait if your child experiences more dangerous warning signs after a hit to the head. A headache that gets worse and does not go away, slurred speech, repeated vomiting, or weakness, numbness, and decreased coordination are all signs to go to the emergency department right away.

2. You May Need to Take Away the Smart Phone

Your child should stay away from physical activity during the first few days following a concussion-especially anything that could lead to a second blow to the head. Another hit during this time can lead to Second Impact Syndrome, a sometimes fatal complication caused by brain swelling. Athletes should also keep away from texting, playing video games, or watching television. Depending on your child's symptoms, school may or may not be the best option. Down time in the nurse's office, half days, or even no school are all things to consider when your child first sustains a concussion.

3. Your Child Will be Asked to Take a Computerized Test

Most sports concussion physicians use the ImPACT test which measures things like reaction time, memory, and speed of mental processing in the brain. The test takes about 30 minutes to complete and gives your doctor important information about your child's concussion when combined with a detailed exam.

4. Sometimes Extra Help is Needed

Your doctor may recommend that you to seek treatment from another specialist. This could include a physical therapist that is specially trained in vestibular therapy to address a balance problem, or a neuro-optometrist to help treat any changes in vision. Often times a plan for school reentry is ordered. This will detail recommended academic accommodations which can include breaks, homework or test reduction, and tips for in the classroom. In some cases, a neuropsychologist will recommend a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Plan.

5. Expect to Complete a Return-to-Play Protocol

Before returning to physical activity and sports, your child will complete a 5-step graduated return to play protocol. This starts with light jogging or riding a bike and works up to full contact. This ensures all symptoms are gone before returning to normal physical activity.

6. You Will Need a Clearance Note

Most state laws, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, require high school students to obtain a clearance note from their physician before returning to full contact sports. Most youth organizations are following suit, so expect to get this written clearance before returning to sports!

7. It Will Take 6 Months Before Your Athlete Can Take a New Baseline Test

ImPACT baseline tests are recommended every other year beginning in middle school. If your child is asked to take a new baseline test, remember, they must be cleared from their concussion for six months before taking an updated test. Baseline testing records extensive information about concussion history and baseline symptoms, and is used for comparison if a concussion occurs.

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

The Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center is a collaboration between Rothman Institute, Jefferson, and Wills Eye Hospital, centrally located at The Philadelphia Navy Yard.

To schedule a sports concussion appointment with the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center, or at a Rothman Institute Sports Concussion location, call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or visit Jefferson.edu/Concussion.