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Concussions in Kids

6 December, 2018


Concussions in Kids

Approximate reading time: 3 minutes

Falls and hits to the head are an inevitable part of growing up. To learn a new skill, such as walking or kicking a ball, is complex involving lots of areas of the brain to develop, coordinate and respond. Naturally during childhood, there will be many falls and if your child hits their head it’ll always cause you to panic just a little. That’s a natural part of parenthood.

Majority of the time, a hit to the head is a safe and normal part of childhood rough and tumble. It might cause some superficial injuries to the head, neck and shoulder joints and muscles such as sprains or strains. At other times, it can result in a concussion

Within childhood sports, concussion is one of the most common injuries sustained. But what is a concussion? How does it affect your child compared to an adult?

Symptoms of childhood concussions

A concussion can be more difficult to spot in children. Children may experience the typical concussion symptoms such as headaches, neck stiffness, fatigue, dizziness or irritability.

At other times, they are more subtle and difficult to spot, especially if your child struggles to communicate how they are feeling or has difficulties processing pain, such as with sensory processing disorder.

Some childhood symptoms concussion include:

  • Interrupted sleep - more or less sleep
  • Irritability or excessive crying
  • Crying with head movement
  • Holding or touching head and neck
  • Loss of interest in usual games and hobbies
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unsteadiness or balance difficulties
  • Sensitivity to light, noise and smells
  • Trouble concentrating or appearing to be daydreaming
  • Memory difficulties such as confusion about recent events
  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Neck pain

One study showed that 88% of school students still recovering from a concussion found that their symptoms interfered with their academic performance (Ransom et al 2015). Additionally, 77% of the students demonstrated decreased scholastic skills such as note taking, increased time spent on homework and problems focusing on studying.

Resolution of kids’ concussion symptoms 

Most children’s symptoms resolve within a month but some children are more vulnerable. Around 13% of school aged children will still have symptoms after three months (Barlow et al 2010).

A previous concussion, learning difficulties, attentional concerns and family stress all increase the likeliness of a child experiencing prolonged concussion symptoms.

Paediatric concussion assessments

The first assessment should be with your GP or the emergency department at the local hospital to rule out anything serious. Here they may perform a CT or MRI scan and look into your child’s eyes to make sure there is no bleeding or serious injury.

Once this has been cleared, then a thorough investigation should be performed to know when to return to school and sports again and what you can do to heal the brain. This is frequently not done in the ER or GP office - they are assessing if there is anything serious happening which is the most important thing.

Many concussion measurements require the patient to report how they feel, know what day it is and to stand on one leg. This type of concussion investigation can be particularly difficult for young children who may not be able to put into words how they are feeling and don’t have the attention span to answer questions or balance on a single leg.

Even in adults, these types of measures are highly variable from patient to patient. For example, if I get headaches every week, the fact that I have a headache after a hit to the head doesn’t mean that I have a concussion. This is why we suggest seeking care from someone experienced working with children.


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Summary

  • Kids are vulnerable to concussions but the symptoms can be more difficult to pick up on
  • If your child has a hit to the head or seems a little off, take them to the GP or ER and get them assessed right away
  • Most kids are symptom free within a month
  • Occasionally kids may have prolonged symptoms which can be assessed by taking a body & brain approach

About the Author

With post-graduate studies in brain-based therapies, sports chiropractic and brain development, our senior Chiropractor, Dr Cassie has a passion for helping kids reach their full potential. As a child, she suffered a minor concussion during her gymnastics days when she backflipped into a brick wall. Later in life, she suffered a secondary concussion that had long lasting effects on her health and ability to work.


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  • Barlow KM, Crawford S, Stevenson A, Sandhu SS,Belangerand F, Dewey D (2010). Epidemiology of Postconcussion Syndrome in Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Pediatrics. August 2010,126(2)e374-e381;DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-0925
  • Ransom DM, Vaughan CG, Pratson L, Sady MD, McGilland CA & Gioia GA (2015). Academic Effects of Concussion in Children and Adolescents.Pediatrics. May 2015,peds.2014-3434;DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2014-3434