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Published on October 31, 2013

After the Ouch, What Next?

October 31, 2013

OuchYour child bumps his or her head at sports practice, throws up, and seems disoriented, but is still raring to get back to into the game.

Do you:

  1. Drive your child to the emergency room?
  2. Schedule an appointment later in the week with your primary care physician?
  3. Keep a close eye on your young warrior, while letting him or her play?

Play It Safe

“If your child has symptoms of a head injury, such as vomiting, severe headache, or altered mental status, go to the emergency room,” says Andrew Oleksyn, DO, director of Kishwaukee Hospital Emergency Department in DeKalb. “There’s no way to determine if your child has an internal injury without a CAT (computed axial tomography) scan. The emergency room is the best place for an acute evaluation.

Fortunately, Dr. Oleksyn sees more strains and sprains than concussions among children in his Emergency Department, although more young people present to the ER with concussions during football season. In spring, most concussions he sees result from playground falls and collisions.

“For a sprained ankle, the joint needs to be immobilized in case there’s a growth plate injury,” he says. “However, this doesn’t mean you need to rush your child to the ER. Use rest, ice, compression, and elevation, and schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care provider.”

Benchmark Testing: What Is It? Who Needs It?

Because the effects of a concussion may not always be obvious, benchmark testing of those participating in contact sports and other high-risk activities may be used to create a “before” profile of balance and cognitive performance. After a head injury, the athlete is retested, and the results are compared against his or her baseline to identify any impaired functioning.

A baseline test is recommended for children participating in cycling, football, baseball, or softball.

“Parent should learn to the concussion protocol at their child’s school or sports organization,” says Maureen Dela Cruz, MD, family medicine physician at KishHealth System Physician Group in Sandwich. “Parents, students, and coaches need to know the signs of concussion and follow the correct steps to identify and treat it.” 

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