What You Don’t Know About Kids and Concussions
Children are resilient. They’re flexible. Pliable. But they’re not completely unbreakable. And their little heads are fragile. When your child takes a flying leap off the couch, tumbles down the stairs, falls off a piece of playground equipment, is involved in a car crash with you, or takes a hard spill on the playing field and hits his head, your heart skips a beat. Every childhood injury can be terrifying, but head injuries are, in many ways, a great unknown.
A Child’s Concussion Is in His Blood
One of the scariest things about a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a child is not treating the problem, but detecting it. Children aren’t always able to accurately identify a headache, nausea, or dizziness, or explain their strange sensations to their parents. A new blood test, however, has been developed to help doctors detect a concussion in a child, even before their parents notice symptoms like extreme fatigue, odd behavior, or moodiness.
Rest is often the biggest prescription for head injuries, but these are children we’re talking about. It’s especially important to identify that a head injury occurred to prevent a second occurrence. Kids are so active that a child with a traumatic brain injury could harm himself again. Secondary injury on a brain that is already under pressure can be fatal.
It’s essential to keep a close eye on your child for days and even weeks after his head injury. But a parent’s observation skills and doctor checkups are not the only ways to detect a brain injury in a child. The blood test developed by an emergency medicine physician at Orlando Health detects a specific biomarker that the brain gives off after a blow to the head. When an injury occurs, glial cells – the cells that protect nerve cells in the brain – release glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) into the blood and this biomarker stays in the bloodstream for up to one week. Detection of a traumatic brain injury in a child, even days after the incident, is very possible. Over the course of three years, this blood test detected 97 percent of brain injuries in almost 600 patients and also indicated when lifesaving neurosurgery was necessary.
Playground TBIs Are on the Rise
Playground equipment invites your children to take risks, to climb to high heights, to launch themselves from bar to bar. Falls and tumbles happen. And so do TBIs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study showing that playground concussions are going up. About 58 percent of head injuries happen to boys, and half of all head injuries affected kids ages 5 to 9.
The question, of course, is whether TBIs are on the rise because parents and teachers are now better educated about TBI symptoms and able to recognize one immediately, whether playgrounds aren’t as safe as they used to be, or whether more children are using playgrounds.
Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. In children, an untreated TBI can cause developmental delays, among other neurological and physical problems. If your child has hit their head, the most important thing you can do is closely observe them for symptoms, like sleepiness, acting differently, or complaints of severe headaches. It is never a bad idea to visit the emergency room if you’re unsure about your child’s well-being.
About: David Christensen is a brain injury expert with Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He has more than 20 years of experience helping victims who have been injured in falls and accidents get compensation for their injuries.