AlpharettaMoms.Org is committed to providing readers with information on concussions. The impact a sports concussion can have on a child can alter their life and if we are aware of symptoms and ways to avoid them, then maybe we can prevent them from happening altogether. A cognitive skills baseline assessment can help tell if your child has suffered memory loss from a concussion.
Especially during the summer, many parents encourage their children to enjoy the weather and have some healthy fun by participating in sports. However, sports are not without risk, and parents should take added precautions to protect against one particularly damaging type of injury: concussions. Although most people know that a concussion occurs when an impact to the head causes the brain to hit against the skull, and that the risk is lowered strongly with the use of proper protective gear, other facts about the injury are not so widely known. As with any preventable occurrence, the first step is educating oneself.
How does a concussion affect the brain?
Concussions are sometimes treated as minor injuries because they are quite common. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (or TBIs) occur every year in the US, with the majority being concussions. However, if concussions are not identified and treated promptly, they can have serious effects, including immediate or delayed long-term neurological impairments in memory, problem solving, processing speed, planning, and attention. This occurs because concussions actually damage the metabolic and neurological function of the brain, rather than simply damaging the physical brain structure.
What should I do about a concussion?
Parents of active children should always be on the lookout for concussion symptoms. In most sports-related cases, there are no physical signs of trauma and the person doesn’t lost consciousness, but the subtle symptoms include the following:
- Inability to remember the immediate past
- Delayed reflexes
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired balance
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of smell or taste**
Any time an individual has experienced an impact to the head and any of these symptoms are present, the individual should seek medical attention so that a physician can perform an Acute Concussion Evaluation (or ACE). This will determine the severity and effects of the concussion. The physician will then develop a recovery plan to ensure that the brain heals appropriately. It is key to follow the prescribed plan closely and to be patient, because the recovery time may be longer for children and adolescents.
What about my child’s cognitive function?
After medical recovery as indicated by a physician, one should begin investigating the cognitive and intellectual damage from the injury. As previously stated, a concussion can cause a mild or significant loss of cognitive skills. In order to have a baseline against which to measure a child’s cognitive skills after a concussion, it is wise to have the child’s cognitive skills assessed before an injury occurs. Look for a standardized, well-established test such as the Woodcock-Johnson III Test of Cognitive Abilities, which assesses the underlying cognitive skills used for learning (such as memory, processing speed, logic and reasoning, and attention). This test is often performed either at a psychologist’s office or at a cognitive skills training center such as LearningRx.
If it is discovered that the concussion has caused a loss of cognitive skills, cognitive training can help children and adults regain these skills or even make their skills stronger than they were before. Cognitive training employs a variety of research-based mental exercises that are designed to improve an individual’s cognitive skills. It is most effective when it is targeted, intense, individualized, and one-on-one, like the training performed at LearningRx.
Concussions can be severe injuries with far-reaching consequences, but knowledge is the best defense. Do your research, take preventative action, and get a baseline cognitive skills test. With these pieces in place, you can simply relax and let your child enjoy the game!
* Susie McDaniel and Beth Ardell are the writers of the article as well as owners of LearningRx Atlanta-Buckhead and LearningRx Alpharetta-Johns Creek, cognitive skills training centers that work with individuals to improve their learning ability through brain training. Both are mothers who have seen their own children’s cognitive abilities improve greatly through LearningRx programs.
**For more symptoms and other information about concussions, see “Heads Up,” the CDC article for parents regarding concussions.