Concussion in Children's Sports

24 June, 2020
Concussion in children's sports can occur during a variety of different activities. Therefore, it's important to be able to recognize it immediately and take all the necessary precautions.
 

Concussion in children’s sports occurs relatively frequently, but it’s not to be taken lightly. If you don’t take proper care from the beginning, it can lead to more serious problems.

Concussions are most common in contact sports, such as rugby, soccer, and basketball. However, there are risks in other sports as well.

It’s estimated that 20 percent of children who play contact sports suffer from a concussion each year. This statistic can vary in different regions, but for many countries, this can still represent millions of children. Furthermore, children who have suffered a concussion are twice as likely to suffer another one if they continue playing sport.

A concussion is where the brain is injured by a blow to the head that shakes the skull. The head moves quickly back and forth as a result of the blow and this affects the brain tissue.

The immediate effect of a concussion is a momentary change in brain function. This change can’t be detected using imaging techniques such as tomography or MRI.

Concussion in children’s sports: symptoms

It’s a good idea for adults to learn how to identify the symptoms of concussion in children’s sports. Early detection can be important for proper treatment and prevention of later problems.

Some of the symptoms that your child might be concussed are:

  • Disorientation: they don’t recognize where they are or what they’re doing.
 
  • Amnesia: forgetting things, especially things related to the moment of trauma.
  • Slow speech: it seems that they find it difficult to speak and answer questions. They take more time to put their sentences together.
  • Headache: the pain might be where the original blow happened or might be a general pain felt throughout the skull.
A brain being hit by swinging balls.

  • Lack of balance: the concussion will affect their coordination, posture, and movements.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diplopia: the medical term for double vision.
  • Increased symptoms with exposure to light and noise.
  • Being extremely tired: they might want to sleep more than usual and have trouble waking up.

How to diagnose concussion in children’s sports

Concussion in children’s sports is difficult to diagnose. For one thing, as we mentioned, it’s not something that shows up using imaging techniques.

This means that it’s important to have a doctor make an informed assessment. However, normally, there are no doctors present unless it’s a big sporting event. This is why we recommend that all children’s coaches know the symptoms and learn to recognize the warning signs.

One of the best-known methods for assessing a concussion is known as SCAT, which is a scale for scoring symptoms after a trauma. The scoring tables can be used by anyone, and are freely available to download on the internet.

 

It’s still possible that doctors may request a CT or MRI, but it’s not strictly necessary. If the symptoms are clear and obvious, this will likely be enough.

Recommendations after a concussion

Once you’ve diagnosed a concussion, you need to take some specific steps to treat it. This will have a significant influence on how the concussion develops.

First of all, the child will need to rest for a time after the injury. Rest helps the brain return to its normal functioning and normal position.

Returning to sports after a concussion in children’s sports is controversial. Some people claim that a rapid return is OK, but much of the scientific evidence suggests that a progressive return is much more sensible.

Keep in mind that a concussion can show symptoms for up to a month after the trauma. Medications aren’t very effective at reducing this period of time, but they can alleviate symptoms such as vomiting or headache.

I child wearing head protection to avoid concussion in children's sports.

All cognitive activity should be reduced somewhat during the four weeks of recovery. It’s important to let your child’s school know about their condition so that they’re not forced to do anything too challenging during this period.

 

Concussion in children’s sports: conclusion

Concussion in children’s sports is quite common but it’s still something to be taken seriously and can affect development. Any adults present should take responsibility for spotting symptoms and identifying a concussion early.

Once diagnosed, it’s important to make sure that the child recovers fully. However, whilst they might need to play less sport for a while – maybe a month – it’s unlikely that they’ll need to abandon it completely.

  • Liotta, Carlos A. “Conmoción cerebral en el deporte.” Trauma 22.2 (2011): 108-112.
  • Ortiz, Mario I., and Gabriela Murguía. “Conmoción cerebral asociado a un traumatismo craneoencefálico en los deportistas.” Medwave 13.01 (2013).
  • De Villegas, Carlos, and Jorge Salazar. “Traumatismo cráneo encefálico en niños.” Revista de la Sociedad Boliviana de Pediatría 47.1 (2008): 19-29.