An international panel of neurologists, updating their recommendations on concussion care, now recommend that any athlete eighteen or younger who is believed to have sustained a concussion during a game or practice should not return to the playing field the same day.
“When in doubt, pull them out.” That’s the message of the new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology regarding treating athletes who have taken a big blow to the head.
The guidelines recommend coaches take players out of the game as soon as the player thinks they may have suffered a concussion, and that the player stay off the field until they have been examined by a health professional trained to treat concussions. Neurologists said the brain can recover more quickly if an athlete rests immediately and is given time to heal. Whereas, the brain takes longer to heal when the child stays on the field with an elevated heart rate developing headaches.
The general consensus of experts is that children and teens require different treatment for concussions. Though 80 to 90 percent of adult concussions resolve in seven to ten days, the recovery time is often longer for children and adolescents. In all cases, the decision to allow an athlete to return to play should be made based on the individual’s progress, not a specific period of time. Careful post-concussion evaluation of the injured student-athlete is essential.
One reason return-to-play guidelines are so important is that the long-term effects of concussions in children can be considerable. Post-concussion syndrome is defined as, “Three months duration of three or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, disordered sleep, headache, dizziness, irritability or aggressiveness, anxiety or depression, personality changes, and/or apathy.”
Studies suggest that athletes who sustain a series of concussions over time (especially three or more) are more likely to have numerous post-concussive symptoms, including amnesia and confusion.