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 and co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, teenagers are actually more susceptible to concussions than adults. The reason? Adolescent brains aren’t fully myelinated. This means 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:
1. Feeling dazed:
Seems stunned/dazed or sluggish/groggy (or anything like it).
2. Acting clumsy:
Moves about clumsily (almost like he or she is drunk).
3. Being confused:
Is confused, such as forgetting instructions or unsure of game, score, or opponent.
4. Being unconscious:
Loses consciousness (even very briefly) – though more than 90 percent of concussions do not include a loss of consciousness.
5. Having memory problems:
Cannot recall events prior to or after incident.
6. Feeling nauseous:
Reports nausea or vomiting.
6. Having a headache:
Complains of headache or pressure in head.
7. Being sensitive to light:
Sensitivity to light or noise.
8. Feeling dizzy:
Has balance problems or dizziness.
9. Being unable to concentrate:
Exhibits concentration and memory problems.
If you notice any of these concussion symptoms in children under 18, 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.