When we think of a concussion, we often think of a sports-related injury, which is quite common. But concussions can happen in a variety of settings – especially among kids — something as common as falling off a bike or an accident on the playground.

The question a lot of parents and grandparents have: How can you tell if it’s just a simple bump on the head or something more serious?

First, it’s important to understand what causes a concussion. It’s basically when our soft brain hits our hard skull. This happens during a quick change in direction and you don’t necessarily need trauma.

Some of the symptoms to look out for with older children include:

  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Sensitivity to light or noise.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Emotional changes.

These symptoms would indicate this isn’t your routine bump to the head. With younger kids it’s sometimes more difficult to pinpoint because they can’t always tell us what they’re feeling. I would tell parents that if they are noticing any actions or behaviors with their children that are atypical, they should get evaluated.

Most concussions will recover on their own. Rest is important, but people are now encouraged to engage in light activity a few days after the injury because it can help with the recovery process. But if you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, seeing someone who is properly trained to treat concussions, such as a sports medicine specialist, is highly recommended.

We do a detailed neurologic exam to make sure there are no significant issues that we need to address. There’s also the importance of follow-up appointments to make sure it’s safe for children to return to school and normal activities, such as sports, based on the severity of the concussion.

Concussions should be taken seriously when they occur, especially if a child has experienced multiple concussion, which can lead to permanent symptoms. Everyone should be mindful of this type of injury as we soon head into spring and many sports and other activities begin to ramp up.

Dr. Michael Marchetti is a Sports Medicine Specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Cheshire. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 203.271.3296 or click here.