As summarized in a recent Reuters Health article, over 100,000 children are treated each year in emergency rooms for concussions, many returning home afterwards without instructions for follow-up care. This new study (originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics) of ER records and outpatient visits from 2002-2006 by Dr. William P. Meehan III, director of the sports concussion clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston, and colleague Dr. Rebekah Mannix, revealed that 28 percent of patients younger than 19 are discharged from the emergency room with no further instructions for follow-up treatment. Their research highlighted that ER treatment is not sufficient to determine how serious an injury is. According to Dr. Meehan, “It’s only in the days following the concussion that the course of the injury can be assessed, and parents can be advised on when their kids can safely return to sports or other activities. None of that can be done in the ER.” He emphasized the message for parents, “Go to the ER, make sure there is no emergency, then follow up with your pediatrician.”
Concussions among children most frequently result from sports injuries or auto accidents. Although most people associate concussions with loss of consciousness, almost 90 percent of victims do not experience any loss of consciousness. Common symptoms include dizziness, confusion, balance problems and vision problems. Primary treatment for concussions is rest. Most patients recover quickly, but lingering symptoms such as headaches and insomnia may exist for some patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website offers valuable advice for the prevention, recognition and response to concussions. Drugs.com is another valuable resource for further information regarding signs and symptoms of concussions in children, both immediately after the accident and the days following it. KidsHealth.org includes a comprehensive discussion of children’s head injuries and concussions.
Parents need to become proactive in following up on all childhood head injuries with an experienced pediatrician or specialist in concussions. Just visiting the emergency room is usually not adequate treatment. Returning to sports and other activities too soon after a concussion frequently can lead to more serious and long-term damage.