Concussions are never far from our mind when we see a hockey player, skier or snowboarder take a bad fall. We’ve known more than one teen who has suffered from a concussion and lost weeks or even months from school, sports, friends and family travel. The ones who have suffered the most came back to sports too soon and got injured a second time before the first concussion was fully healed.
With these experiences in mind, we’re taking a break from our usual travel discussions to make our readers aware of an important concussion awareness program currently being promoted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the banner of “Heads Up”.
The CDC is enlisting bloggers like us to help increase awareness of what concussions are and how to protect your child or teen if you suspect they have one. Why are we so worried about concussions?
What is a concussion? The CDC defines a concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can literally cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.”
What you might not know is that these chemical changes make the brain at risk for further injury until it fully recovers. In addition, children and teens are more likely to get a concussion or TBI and take longer to recover than adults. Each year in the US, almost half a million kids ages 0 to 14 years old make emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries, many of which are concussion.
Heads Up Action Plan: What to do if you suspect your teen has a concussion?
Step 1: Keep your teen out of play and make sure his or her brain has plenty of time to heal. Repeat concussions that occur before the first one has healed can cause lasting damage or even death.
Step 2: Seek medical attention right away. Any doubts – go straight from the rink or field to the emergency room. If they lost consciousness even briefly be sure to contact the doctors.
Step 3: Teach your teens about the long term dangers of concussions. Many teens want to pretend they are fine and go right back into the game – setting themselves up for even worse injury.
Step 4: Make sure coaches, teachers, and school nurses know if your teen has a concussion. We’ve known some kids who missed weeks of school and couldn’t do homework for a month. Get ahead of the curve and work out a school and homework recovery plan that is appropriate for your teen’s situation.
Educate yourself about concussion prevention and treatment – the CDC has a lot of resources at its Concussion Education page where you can download their Heads Up toolkit. It has targeted materials for parents, health care professional, coaches and school administrators.
We’d also like you to share your concussion stories or ask the CDC questions at www.facebook.com/cdcheadsup.
Next, be sure to check in with your schools and sports leagues and if you are not satisfied with their policies and training make sure they get educated too. Our high school has recently begun conducting concussion prevention baseline tests and developing return to sports protocols based on the same steps as the Heads Up program. Funding came from concerned parents, so reach out to your schools and teams and see what you can do to help.
Finally, make sure you teen wears an approved sport appropriate helmet for skiing, snowboarding and contact sports and preach concussion awareness regularly. Ever since our kids learned to skate we have drilled them on heads up, don’t duck – which means if you are heading into the boards keep your head up and do everything you can to avoid getting knocked head first into the boards. And you can be sure they wear helmets for all their outdoor winter sports too.
Disclosure:I wrote this blog post while participating in a SocialMoms blogging program for which I may receive a thank you kit.” For more information on how you can participate, click here.