Concussion care for kids

October 1, 2012

They happen all the time and at all levels. But it hit Mason Smith by complete surprise.

"I remember playing but I woke up in the hospital," he said.

The 14-year-old tri-athlete got his first concussion during a pick-up game of basketball.

"He kept asking the same questions over and over again, and it really alarmed me as a parent because he never had a concussion. And I would've never have known that that was one of the things that happens," said mom Jennifer Smith.

A recent survey shows many parents don't recognize the red flags. Only eight percent know the risks of repeated brain injuries.

"That actually can be a catastrophic problem if someone actually reinjures their brain before it's fully healed," said Mark Halstead, MD, director, Sports Concussion Clinic, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis.

So what are the consequences of getting back in the game too soon? Worsened symptoms, longer recovery or death. The answer? All three! Young athletes are at higher risk of second impact syndrome.

"While their still recovering from their first can develop massive swelling in their brain and they can die," Halstead said.

Next can your diet help speed up recovery? Studies show omega 3's can help decrease nerve cell damage and "creatine" found in meat may also help. Can mouthguards and high-tech helmets prevent a concussion? While they provide protection some believe they're more of Hail Mary. Before hitting the field, your football players should do a helmet check ---for loose attachments, broken welds and cracks in the temporal area.

While knowing what to look for is key, Halstead says when in doubt, sit them out.

"It's better to miss one game than miss the season," he said.

How often should you wake a kid up who's just had a concussion? While the traditional rule has been to wake up a concussed athlete every three to four hours during the night, Halstead says the best thing for the brain after a concussion is rest. Mason slept 44 out the 48 hours following his concussion.

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