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What Parents Should Know About Concussions

Posted on Jul 30, 2018

Patrick Mularoni, M.D.

It’s that time of year again where students are getting ready to go back to school and fall sports are starting. Sports-related concussion seems to be on the rise. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, is an Emergency Center doctor and the medical director of the pediatric sports medicine program. He gives parents some important information they need to know in case their child might suffer a concussion.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs after trauma to the head or body. Concussion can occur in any sport or activity and can be caused by a blow to the body with no hit to the head. Our sports medicine department treated more than 3,000 athletes with concussion in the past five years. The majority came from traditional contact sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey and wrestling, but we also have seen concussions in cheerleaders, competitive swimmers and in recreational sports such as skateboarding. They can happen to just about any child who is active, but a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health looked at more than 40,000 kids in Taiwan with ADHD and found that concussion was four times more common in this population. This study wasn’t designed to answer the question as to why kids with ADHD are more prone to concussion.

So what would alert a parent or coach that a child has suffered a concussion?

If the child has a big hit and suffered loss of consciousness, most parents would know that their child may have a concussion and should be seen by a doctor. The harder situation is if a player has an injury but may have limited symptoms like dizziness or inability to remember parts of the game that they're playing in. Some coaches will recognize a concussion in a player who is not playing up to his or her typical speed or is making unusual mistakes. The most common symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with balance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sleep issues 

If there is any question as to whether a child has a concussion, you should pull him or her out of the game and not have the child return until after evaluation by a physician who is comfortable managing pediatric concussion.

It seems that concussions are on the rise. Is that true?

We are definitely diagnosing more concussions than ever before so it is true that concussions are on the rise. That being said, we need to also think about the fact that organized sports participation is on the rise. Not only are more children playing organized sports but they are also playing year round, which gives more field time and a greater exposure.

Another reason we are seeing more concussions is because we have a heightened awareness and I believe kids are self-diagnosing concussion now when they were just playing through it in the past.

So if you think your child has a concussion what is the best thing to do?

  1. Get them off the field. When in doubt sit them out.
  2. Don’t return to school until they are seen by a doctor.
  3. Stop using all electronic screens.
  4. Rest is best. 

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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