It's important for parents to monitor a child's symptoms after a concussion

From Tots to Teens

November 14, 1995|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My son had a concussion last week during a football game. Is it safe for him to play again next week?

To answer your question, we need to define the term "concussion" very specifically.

Whether and when your son can return to play depends on the kind of concussion he experienced.

The term concussion generally refers to a brief impairment of brain function caused by a blow to the head. Symptoms of a concussion may include dizziness, headache, ringing in the ears, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting. Concussions are usually graded as mild, moderate or severe.

By definition, a mild concussion is not associated with loss of consciousness. Athletes may complain of dizziness and confusion. In addition, they may have trouble remembering events that occurred up to 30 minutes after the concussion and may even forget what happened to them just before the injury.

A moderate concussion is associated with a brief period (five minutes or less) of unconsciousness. Athletes may have trouble remembering anything new for up to 24 hours and will usually complain of headache and nausea.

A severe concussion, which often involves bleeding into the brain, is associated with being unconscious for more than five minutes and with amnesia that lasts for more than a day. This kind of concussion represents a very severe brain injury. We assume your son did not have this kind of problem.

If your son had a mild concussion, does not have any lingering symptoms (that is, has no dizziness, headache, nausea, or trouble with his memory) and it is his first of the season, he can play again this week.

If he had a moderate concussion, he must be without symptoms for at least one week before playing again. If this injury is the second of the season, he should wait at least two weeks after all his symptoms have cleared for a mild concussion and should wait at least one month if he had a moderate injury.

Some experts would recommend that an athlete who has had two moderate concussions in one season should terminate the season.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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