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Getting Your Head in the Game

It’s a question that many parents, coaches, and even young athletes themselves face. The truth is, when it comes to head injuries, the telltale signs of a concussion aren’t always crystal clear.

According to Nicole Ryan, MD, a board-certified pediatric neurologist with Beebe Pediatric Neurology, sports are the number one cause for concussions among adolescents and if left untreated can lead to prolonged injury and risk of severe complications. 


What is a Concussion, and What are the Symptoms?

Simply put, a concussion is the brain’s reaction to an impact to the head that usually results in a change in the function of the brain, rather than the structure of the brain. “A concussion is not associated with any physical change in the brain or the brain structure, so if you have a CT scan or MRI after a concussion it will be normal,” Dr. Ryan says. “When brain cells or neurons are shocked by an injury to the head, there are chemical changes in the brain that then take time to correct.”

Because reactions to a concussion can vary, it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for the following symptoms after a head injury: 

+ Headache
+ Sensitivity to light or sound
+ Nausea
+ Dizziness and difficulty walking
+ Changes in sleep patterns
+ Loss of concentration


My Child Has a Concussion, Now What? 

“If you suspect that a child has a concussion, apply the motto ‘when in doubt, sit them out,’” Dr. Ryan says. Though recovery times vary, your child will most likely need to rest for a couple of days, and will need to forgo sports for a period of time to be safe. 

Concerned about concussions and your child? Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Nicole Ryan suggests these tips and resources. Always contact a doctor immediately if you think your child has a concussion or head injury.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of the Beacon.