Families Take Note

The important role families play after active sons and daughters suffer concussions in just about every contact sport and even some non contact sports, hasn’t received much attention.
The fact is that an athlete’s family, along with teachers, coaches, school nurses and administrators, play a crucial role in a child’s concussion treatment and recovery from a suspected concussion, especially the all-important decisions about when to return to school and everyday social and home activity, and to sports.

Why is family support important

Family involvement in their child’s recovery from concussion is, not surprising, considering that:

1.  Active involvement of the family is standard practice.
2.  The student athlete’s everyday environments at home and at school are important places to observe post-concussion symptoms, which can be subtle and may not be apparent until days after injury.
3.  Families & teachers possess a wealth of information about the child’s behavior and ability to function in these settings that is directly relevant to an assessment of their post-concussion symptoms and when it is safe for          them to return to school and sports.

Family checklist

1. Regularly and closely monitor athlete during first 24 to 48 hours.
2. Most sport-related concussions are mild, but the potential always exists for a more serious, life-threatening head injury: epidural hematoma (bleeding between the skull and the brain), subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hematoma, or second-impact syndrome (a rare, but often fatal brain injury suffered before the brain has fully healed from previous trauma).
3.  Delayed onset of symptoms during the first 24 to 48 hours is possible (and more likely in children), families – or another responsible adult – should closely monitor the athlete during this time.
4.  Traditionally the concussed athlete is woken up every 3 to 4 hours during the night to evaluate changes in symptoms and rule out the possibility of an intracranial bleed, such as a subdural hematoma. The new thinking is that there may be more benefit from uninterrupted sleep than frequent wakening, which may make symptoms worse. As a result, waking up your child during the night only once to check for signs of deteriorating mental status is now recommended if your child experienced a loss of consciousness or prolonged amnesia after the injury, or was still experiencing other significant post-concussion signs or symptoms (such as headache, vomiting, dizziness or sensitivity to light or noise) at bedtime. There is no need to check your child’s eyes with a flashlight or test their reflexes.

5. Take the athlete (your child, family member) to the closest Emergency Department if  any of the following concussion signs of deteriorating mental status occur:
• Has a headache that gets worse
• Is very drowsy or can’t be awakened (woken up)
• Can’t recognize people or places
• Is vomiting repeatedly
• Behaves unusually, seems confused or very irritable
• Experiences seizures (arms and legs jerk uncontrollably)
• Has weak or numb arms or legs
• Is unsteady on his feet or has slurred speech.

6. Use paracetamol to teat early concussion headache. Medical experts advise that you do not give aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) (e.g. Ibuprofen/Advil®). An ice pack on the head and neck is okay as needed for comfort.

7. Warn the athlete about the dangers of drinking alcohol, engaging in recreational drug use, or using any other substance that could interfere with cognitive function and brain function recovery. Do not provide sleeping tablets to the concussed athlete.

8. While the athlete is experiencing concussion symptoms – such as sensitivity to noise or light or dizziness, inability to detect quick movements of the head, sleep problems, problems with memory or concentration, or anxiety – he should not be driving. If symptoms persist, it may even be advisable for the athlete to be undertake a more formal evaluation to determine whether it is safe for him to resume driving a car.

Last Updated 21 November 2013

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