Head injuries are serious business – we’re talking about the brain here! Every athlete will respond differently from a blow to the head and some cases can be much more serious than others. Sometimes progressive symptoms can appear hours after the injury occurs.
If one of my athletes suffers a head injury during a practice or game, first I’ll rule out any immediate dangers that would require a trip to the Emergency Room. If it’s safe for the athlete to go home it’s important that they are monitored closely until I have a chance to see them in the training room the next day – here’s where mom and dad come in.
What To Look For
Basically, you want to make sure you notice if anything gets worse. Since your child may be a bit out of it (which is normal even after a mild concussion), you can’t always rely on them to give you honest and accurate info. Here are some of the guidelines I give to the parents of my athletes when they are sent home to monitor their child after a head injury.
- Go straight home and rest. No more practices, games, or errands. Straining to read or get homework done may not be possible (make sure to go through the proper school channels to have the student be temporarily excused).
- Ask if symptoms are getting worse. Some common ones include: headache, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, drowsiness, irritability, neck pain.
- Don’t eat a large meal – head injuries are sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. A small meal (if they’re hungry) and some fluids are fine.
- Don’t give any painkillers for a headache – no Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Aspirin – Nothing! These can mask the symptoms of a worsening concussion and blood thinners like aspirin can increase intra-cranial bleeding. A cool cloth or an ice pack to the head are all you should do.
- Don’t leave your athlete unattended for long period of time, talk to them – make sure they remain awake and alert until their typical bedtime.
- Once they athlete does go to bed for the night –wake them up periodically to make sure they awake easily.
- If any symptoms appear to get worse – call your MD immediately and take the athlete to the Emergency Room for further evaluation.
- No activity of any kind is allowed until you are cleared by your medical care team (MD and/or Athletic Trainer).
Return To Play
Athletes that suffer from head injuries can miss anywhere from a day to months of their sport. It’s vital that both athletes and their parents work closely with their school’s athletic trainer and the rest of the child’s medical team to determine the best time to get back to playing safely.
Resources & Articles