Childhood Concussions a Cause for Concern

World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day recognized October 19 with focus on concussions

(RxWiki News) Kids will be kids — running around, scraping knees and occasionally bonking their heads on the table. But what if a more serious head injury occurs? How do these injuries affect a still-growing brain?

World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day is being recognized on October 19th. The theme of this year's observance is concussion.

Health officials recommend precautions like using seat belts, wearing helmets and practicing other safe habits in order to prevent childhood concussions.

"Make sure your child has a properly fitting bike helmet."

According to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), concussions technically involve a short loss of normal brain function after a head injury, but the term is often used by people to describe any minor head or brain injury.

Concussions often occur as sports injuries, or after a blow to the head or hitting the head during a fall.

Concussion symptoms might not start immediately after the injury occurs and may even take weeks or days to develop. Common symptoms include headache, neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, tiredness or generally feeling "in a daze."

"Doctors use a neurologic exam and imaging tests to diagnose a concussion," wrote NLM. "Most people recover fully after a concussion, but it can take some time. Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal."

According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), organizers of World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day, as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur every year in the US.

"The effect of concussion on developing brains is of particular concern," explained USBJI. "Children with concussion, particularly multiple concussions, are at high risk for developing headaches and suffering from impaired memory, cognitive function, attention, or other behavioral changes. Concussions occur in all sports with the highest incidence in football, hockey, rugby, soccer, and basketball."

In an interview with dailyRx News, Kevin Crutchfield, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute of LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Maryland, agreed that concussions in children are more worrisome.

"Every time you have a concussive blow to the head, you are killing brain tissue," said Dr. Crutchfield. "If that tissue is still developing, you actually start to limit the capacity of the brain."

Dr. Crutchfield explained that the brain grows and develops by creating a network of connections. And brain cells that are damaged through injury are unable to form connections as a part of this growth process.

"We don't know for sure the ramifications of this, but we can assume that a child with damage to the brain's tissue may not be able to do cognitive tasks they might have been able to do otherwise," said Dr. Crutchfield.

Dr. Crutchfield also warned that brain swelling is a bigger risk for children who experience a concussion than it is for older patients.

"The biggest piece of advice I can give to parents is, if your kids are participating in any activity (sports or otherwise) where they are getting recurrent injuries, they aren't doing it safely and maybe it's not the best activity for them," Dr. Crutchfield told dailyRx News. He mentioned that kids, like adults, have different builds and bodies and what is safe and healthy for some is not always safe and healthy for others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that parents make sure their child wears a seatbelt when riding in a car and uses a child safety seat or booster seat as necessary. CDC also recommends that helmets be worn during activities like riding a bike or scooter, using skates or a skateboard, riding a horse, skiing, batting or running bases in baseball or softball and while playing a contact sport like football, ice hockey or boxing.

NLM recommends seeking medical attention if symptoms of a concussion get worse or include things like seizures, trouble walking or sleeping, weakness, numbness, troubles with coordination, continued vomiting or nausea, confusion or slurred speech.

World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day is observed annually on October 19.

Review Date: 
October 6, 2013