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Concussions - Information for Parents

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that cannot be seen on routine X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans. It affects the way a child may think and remember things, and can cause a variety of symptoms. A child does not need to lose consciousness to have a concussion. All concussions are serious because they are brain injuries. (Parachute Canada – Parents & Caregivers)

What causes a concussion?

Any bump or blow to the head, face or neck, or somewhere else on the body that causes a sudden jarring of the head may cause a concussion. Some examples include being hit in the head with a ball or being checked into the boards in hockey. (Parachute Canada)

What are the common signs and symptoms of a suspected concussion?

Possible Signs Observed
A sign is something that is observed by another person (e.g. parent/guardian, teacher, coach, supervisor, peer).
Possible Symptoms Reported
A symptom is something the child will feel/report.
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coordination/balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling off/not right
  • Seeing stars
Cognitive (Thinking/Remembering)
  • Feeling in a fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confused
Cognitive (Thinking/Remembering)
  • Slowed reaction time
  • General confusion
  • Dazed or in a fog
  • Strange or inappropriate emotions (e.g. laughing, crying, getting angry easily)
  • Irritable, sad, more emotional than usual
  • Nervous, anxious, depressed
  • Sleeps more/less than usual
  • Drowsiness
  • A concussion is to be suspected if one or more of the signs or symptoms are present
  • Signs and symptoms can appear immediately after the injury or may take hours or days to emerge.
  • Signs and symptoms may be different for everyone

What should you do if you think your child has a concussion?

The Sport Concussion Recognition Tool 5 (CRT5) can be used by anyone to help identify suspected concussion in children, youth, and adults.

  • Your child should stop activity right away.
  • Seek medical attention.
    • Every child who gets a head injury should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
    • If you are unsure whether your child may have suffered a concussion or if they are healing properly, see a doctor.
    • A health care professional, familiar with concussion management, will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child to return to regular activities, including physical activity and school.
  • Help them take time to get better.
    • The brain needs time to heal after a concussion. The most important treatment for a concussion is rest, both mental and physical.
    • Your child will need to restrict activities while they are recovering to encourage rest (e.g. no exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games. These activities may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse.
    • The signs and symptoms of a concussion often last for 7-10 days but may last much longer.
  • Keep line of communication open
    • Your child may feel sad or frustrated that they are not able to participate in their regular activities.
    • Talk with your child about how they are feeling about missing their activity or sport and school.
    • Communicate with your child’s teacher, coach, and doctor about the progress your child.

Returning to school and physical activity

  • A child or teen with a diagnosed concussion needs to follow a medically supervised, individualized and gradual Return to Learn/Return to Physical Activity Plan. In developing the plan, the return to learn process is customized to meet the needs of the child. (OPHEA Concussion Package 2014)

How can you help your child prevent a concussion?

  • Encourage your child to play fair and engage in fair play, within the rules, and within his or her abilities.
  • Encourage them to practice good sportsmanship at all times.
  • Reinforce wearing the right gear for the right sport, and the importance of having equipment that fits well and is in good condition.
  • Helmets prevent skull fractures, brain contusions, lacerations, and blood clots in and around the brain. They do not prevent concussion.

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