I’ve become well versed in teen concussions after my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, had four concussions over a period of fifteen months from club volleyball. Also, PickyKidPix had a soccer teammate with two severe concussions; her older sister had a concussion so bad that she had to quit soccer altogether. I’ve teamed up with that mom, Mary Lou, to bring you what parents should know about concussions in children and teens.
My daughter is number 9. She plays libero, a defense specialist.
Our Concussion Story
In retrospect, my daughter’s first concussion was a mild one that I didn’t realize was a concussion. She tried out for club volleyball team in December of 2015 where she took at least one hard ball to her head from girls serving the ball at high speeds. She had a headache for two days and then she was fine. We didn’t go to the doctor at all.
Her head coach of her volleyball club team called me to tell me that she had failed his concussion test. He wasn’t the coach at her practice when she took a very hard ball to the side of her head that had shanked off a teammate. He noticed that she didn’t look quite right during practice and gave her the test. She wasn’t able to recalling the words he’d given her in the correct order.
This was April 2015 at her MGA Club Volleyball practice. Her symptoms included memory loss, headache and light sensitivity. She missed about a week of school but the following week was spring break. When she was home, she had to stay off screens and she was bored and restless. She cocooned for that week at home, unhappily.
During that vacation, she took an intensive 40 hour art class at Mass College of Art. My boxing trainer advised drinking a lot of water to help bring down the swelling in the brain. After her week of art class, she returned to school full time and seemed fine.
It was literally her first volleyball practice on March 9th, 2016 when she got what she says is the worst concussion of all four. She suffered from memory loss, headaches, insomnia, nausea, light sensitivity, loss of balance, and a shift in her vision. My friend, Head Soccer Coach at Boston College, recommended her team’s concussion specialist, Dr. Doug Comeau, who works at the Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at Boston University. We met weekly with him and also did twice a week concussion physical therapy with “Cam” James Camarinos. I highly recommend them both. The PT is meant to strength weak muscles and stretch out tight ones. The idea behind it is to do daily exercises that will help with concussion prevention in the future.
Here are some things about concussions were helpful revelations to me:
- A teen brain is still being developed, which causes concussion to take longer to heal than adults. Who knew?! This is probably the one area that kids heal more slowly than adults.
- There are doctors who specialize in concussions! Often, they take care of college sports teams in sports like hockey, football, and soccer. Your child’s regular pediatrician won’t know the latest research for treating concussions as this is a new and rapidly developing field.
- There is also physical therapy for concussions. The purpose of this PT is primarily to fix tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles, particularly around the neck and shoulders, so that a future impact to the head will not result in a concussion.
- You might need to find a series of medical providers to help treat specific symptoms. Mary Lou’s oldest lost her peripheral vision. In order to get it back, she had to find an eye doctor that had exercises that actually fixed this. But… she only found this doctor in Massachusetts from her doctor in California. It would have been impossible to find this otherwise. His treatment was unusual and the doctor himself was a little strange, but it can become as Turn-Over-Every-Stone to find the right medical providers that can help. For her daughter, gamer glasses helped with vision. We didn’t need those, but that’s a good tip.
- Your child’s symptoms can depend on precisely where he or she was hit. My daughter’s concussions tended to be on the front lobes where her logical reasoning is located. School was therefore hard to get through. Another teen her age also had four concussions in roughly the same time period but had no trouble with headaches at school and was able to attend class as usual. Her concussions were front of the head and she had more issues with vision which my daughter did not.
- The symptoms of concussion include: headache (from light to severe and can “flare up”), depression, anxiety, vision problems, sensitivity to light, loss of balance, short term memory loss, nausea, vomiting, confusion, dizziness, disorientation, sensitivity to noise, ringing in the ears, insomnia, and personality changes.
- The latest thoughts on a severe concussion is to cocoon for a shorter length of time — around 48 hours — and then trying to go back to the usual routine. Staying cocooned for too long can result in concussion symptoms when returning.
Image from University of Cambridge, via BBC.
A University of Cambridge team has identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teenage years.While the areas associated with the basic functioning of the body such as vision, hearing and movement are fully developed by adolescence, the areas associated with complex thought and decision making are still changing. from BBC