Say concussion to the average person and you’ll evoke images of football players colliding in head-to-head impact. After all, there’s been a huge focus on concussions in football, and a large amount of research done on the effects and treatments of this type of injury in athletes.
The problem is that concussions don’t just happen on the field. Anyone can suffer a concussion. And because we may not associate concussions with gym class, or even a bump into a locker, we could miss the warning signs of these devastating head injuries.
The people on the front lines—the nurses, teachers and parents—are the ones who need to be extra vigilant. You’re usually the first one to evaluate a student who hit his or her head on a locker or fell and hit their head in gym class. Therefore, it is important to remember a few key points in regards to concussions that are universal to treatment, regardless if it is sports-related.
- Know the signs: A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by trauma directly to the head or body that results in the brain being shaken or jolted inside the skull. The initial diagnosis of a concussion is made by the presence of signs and symptoms. There are over 20 signs/symptoms, but some of the most common ones that initially present are headache, dizziness, fogginess and nausea. In school, the student may complain of difficulty concentrating, blurry vision or difficulty remembering material. If any of these symptoms are present, the student should be immediately sent to the nurse’s office and a parent should be notified.
- What next: Concussions can cause serious difficulties and limitations for students. They may have difficulty focusing in class, working on computers for extended periods of time, difficulty taking notes from the board, and even simply reading a textbook. Steps should be taken to remove them from aggravating tasks until evaluation by their pediatrician or family doctor, or a concussion specialist. Once evaluated, proper accommodations such as reduced workloads and extra time to complete assignments can be arranged.
- And out of school…: Accommodations don’t end at the end of the school day. The same difficulties the student has in school translate to out-of-school activities too. Things such as watching TV, playing video games and extended time on a cell phone can trigger severe symptoms. Parents must supervise their children and remove aggravating activities that may slow the healing process. Close follow-up with the doctor will help guide the parents and school when it is OK to start returning to normal activity
Concussions are a complex injury to both diagnose and treat. Fortunately, due to the increased scrutiny in sports and increased focus of research, our understanding continues to grow. However, concussions don’t stop at the sidelines of the athletic field. They can occur in anyone at anytime. Therefore parents, teachers, school nurses, etc. must be aware of the basic signs of the injury, and how to properly start the evaluation and treatment process.