A concussion is often referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury. It is not very uncommon for children to get affected while playing contact sports. Fights (a blow to the head), falls, or bicycle accidents that lead to a head injury could also be the contributing factors. Head injuries are basically categorized into external and internal injuries. In case of the former, only the scalp is injured, whereas the latter involves the skull, brain, and the blood vessels within the brain. Concussions are characterized by a temporary loss of brain function. These are likely to occur in case of injuries that force the soft tissues of the brain against the bone of the skull. In mild cases, the symptoms might resolve soon, and the affected child might not lose consciousness. However, medical help must be sought to avert complications.
Symptoms of concussion in children
Head injuries or violent shaking of the head
that causes the soft brain tissues to smash against the bones of the skull can cause the brain to get bruised. Nerve damage
or rupturing of the blood vessels inside the brain could also affect the functioning of the brain for a brief period. The symptoms will depend on the damage caused due to the injury. Concussions are categorized into Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3. Grade 1 does not involve a loss of consciousness. The child might be dazed and will have some trouble focusing
for a short while. The child may experience symptoms such as slight confusion, crankiness, dizziness, or an altered level of alertness. However, these symptoms resolve within fifteen minutes. In case of Grade 2, the symptoms might be similar to the Grade 1, but generally last for more than 15 minutes.
Grade 3 occurs when the impact of the blow to the head is severe, and is often observed in children affected by a brain stem injury
. One symptom that distinguishes Grade 3 from Grade 1 and 2 is loss of consciousness. In case of a Grade 3 concussion, symptoms that may be experienced include disorientation, loss of balance, numbness, concentration problems
, convulsions, unusual eye movements
, blurred vision
, dilation of the pupils, mood changes, increased sensitivity to light or noise, changes in the sleep pattern
, repeated vomiting, or temporary amnesia. If these symptoms persist for a longer period, it could result in permanent damage to the brain.
Treatment of concussion in children
Besides a physical examination, an X-ray examination of the skull, pulse oximetry test, and imaging procedures such as CT scan and MRI of the head
are conducted for a proper diagnosis. Doctors might also conduct certain neurological examinations
to ascertain the child's consciousness level or his/her response to stimuli. Drug therapy is an integral part of the treatment. Besides taking medications for alleviating the symptoms, parents must ensure that the child takes proper rest and refrains from any activity that might stress him/her out. In severe cases, hospitalization might be required. The recovery time will basically depend on the severity of the symptoms.
If not treated on time, the child is at an increased risk of developing post concussion syndrome, which is a condition wherein the symptoms might be experienced for several years. Prevention is always better than cure, which is why it is advisable to ensure that children wear protective headgear while biking or playing any contact sports.