A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that temporarily disrupts brain function. The brain is made of soft tissue and is cushioned by spinal fluid. It is encased in the hard, protective skull. The brain can move around inside the skull and even bang against it. If the brain bangs against the skull blood vessels can be torn and the nerves inside the brain can be injured. Concussions are most often caused by a direct blow to the head, but can also be caused by a blow to the body that snaps the head forward, backward or side to side.
Sometimes, a concussion causes an immediate loss of consciousness, but a child can also appear fine at first and then have symptoms develop up to 72 hours later. Symptoms of a concussion usually include:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia) or excessive sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering things
- Problems with balance and coordination
If you suspect your child might have a concussion it is important to have them evaluated by a physician. If the concussion is confirmed the doctor will give very specific instructions in a recovery plan. The plan may include limited use of electronics and screen time, rest periods at school, shortened school days and/or homework assignments and no sports activities. The recovery plan will also include a series of follow up appointments so the physician can evaluate your child's progress and authorize when your child may resume their usual activities. The recovery period may be only a week or two or require many months.
It is very important that this documentation be shared with the school nurse who will ensure that teachers, guidance counselors, physical education staff and coaches are all aware of the concussion and the accommodations in place to assist the student in being comfortable and productive at school during the recovery period.
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