We tend to think that adolescents bounce back from injury more easily than adults. But when it comes to a concussion, that’s simply not the case.
In fact, says Dr. Robert Cantu, chief of Neurosurgery at Emerson Hospital in Boston, teenagers are actually more susceptible to concussions than adults. The reason? Adolescent brains aren’t fully myelinated, meaning their nerve cells don’t have the insulation adult brains have, leaving them far more vulnerable to serious brain injury.
What’s more, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), emergency room visits for sports-related brain injuries have increased sixty percent among under-18 year olds in the past decade. There are about four million sports-related concussions each year. Of course, most go undiagnosed and can cause trouble down the line if compounded by additional head trauma (or more concussions).
Because you can’t “see” a concussion, if your teenager gets hit on the head—on the playing field or elsewhere—it’s important to be on the look out for these ten symptoms. They can show up immediately after the injury or up to several days later:
- Dazed: Seems stunned/dazed or sluggish/groggy (or anything like it).
- Clumsy: Moves about clumsily (almost like he or she is drunk).
- Confused: Is confused, such as forgetting instructions or unsure of game, score, or opponent.
- Loss of Consciousness: Loses consciousness (even very briefly) – though more than 90 percent of concussions do not include a loss of consciousness.
- Loss of Recall: Cannot recall events prior to or after incident.
- Nausea: Reports nausea or vomiting.
- Headache: Complains of headache or pressure in head.
- Light Sensitivity: Sensitivity to light or noise.
- Dizzy: Has balance problems or dizziness.
- Lack of Concentration: Exhibits concentration and memory problems.
If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. A health care professional will determine how significant the injury is and, equally important, tell you when your teenager can safely return to sports and other activities.