As a trial lawyer, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible doctors who specialize in child brain injury. This is the best brain injury advice I’ve ever heard.
Preventing child brain injury is why kids wear bike helmets, why playgrounds aren’t built on concrete anymore, and why there are strict rules in kids sports.
Every parent knows that they can’t prevent every bump to their child’s head. And we know a bump to the head and a brain injury are not necessarily the same thing. A superficial wound or bump to the head can be no fun for a child, but a brain injury is much more serious.
Years ago, I read op-ed by a neurosurgeon who specializes in concussion therapy and spine surgery; one simple point really stood out.*
A concussion is NOT a head injury: it is a brain injury.
In the U.S., we have been fairly casual about concussions compared to more obviously severe brain injuries. After all, most concussions are resolved within a couple of weeks, without obvious consequences.
But a concussion changes how the brain works. Younger people, teens especially, can have lasting cognitive effects like short-term memory loss or an inability to focus.
And every concussion makes a child more vulnerable to another concussion.
So treat a concussion like a brain injury, not like a mere bump to the head.
Identifying a child concussion
Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. This Concussion Awareness Training Tool is one of the best resources I’ve seen.
The most identifiable signs and symptoms of a child concussion are likely physical symptoms. If a child is vomiting or falls asleep soon after a head injury, it’s clear that they should see a doctor. Symptoms like increased emotional responses, or sleep changes, are harder to see clearly.
As a parent, you know your child best.
If you think something is “off”, even if they are not displaying the common symptoms of a child brain injury, call a pediatrician or a qualified medical provider.
“Following a head injury, if the little voice inside you is telling you to go to the emergency room, listen to that voice.”
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**This post was originally published 7-30-14, updated 2-19-17 and 6-20-21.
The original op-ed link is no longer available; see the cited study here.