Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heads Up on Brain Injury

As a school nurse who deals with head injuries on a daily basis, and a mother of a child who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, I jumped on the opportunity to spread awareness about concussions and proper response.  The importance of knowing the warning signs and responding appropriately can save the life of a child.

In Luke's case, he collided with another student in PE which caused him to fall backwards and hit his head on the gym floor. He did not start developing symptoms right away. In fact, we even took him to the ER and had a ct scan which did not show the brain bleeding at that time. The headaches continued, and over a month after the injury he developed double vision. It was then we took him back to the ER where they found severe pappilledema, severe intracranial pressure, and his brain was bleeding. He underwent two brain surgeries within a two months, and by the grace of God is doing amazing.

Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Data shows that, on average, approximately 1.7 million people die, are hospitalized, or are seen in an emergency department for a traumatic brain injury annually. Almost half a million emergency department visits for TBI that occur each year are among children aged 0 to 14 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started a Heads Up program in order to inform parents, teachers, school nurses, and coaches about head injuries and the risks and threats associated with them. This is a great tool where you can learn more information, but here are also some important things you need to know!

So what is a concussion? A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can literally cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. What you might not know is that these chemical changes make the brain more vulnerable to further injury. During this window of vulnerability the brain is more sensitive to any increased stress or injury, until it fully recovers.

How can parents recognize a Concussion?

Check for any difference in the child’s behavior, thinking, or functioning. Here are some warning signs:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Delayed verbal and/or motor responses
  • Unusual irritability
  • Poor coordination
  • Sensitivity to light or sound                                                                     
It’s important for parents, athletes, and coaches to know about concussion. So what should you do if you think your teen has a concussion? CDC developed the following 4-step Heads Up Action Plan to help you protect your child or teen if you suspect they have a concussion:

1. Keep your teen out of play. If your child or teen has a concussion, her/his brain needs time to heal. Don’t let your child or teen return to play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says he or she is symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death.

2. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to sports.

3. Teach your child or teen that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. Rest is key after a concussion. Sometimes athletes wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Discourage others from pressuring injured athletes to play. Don’t let your child or teen convince you that s/he’s “just fine.”

4. Tell all of your child or teen’s coaches and the school nurse about ANY concussion. Coaches, school nurses, and other school staff should know if your child or teen has ever had a concussion. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while s/he is recovering from a concussion. Things such as studying, driving, working on a computer, playing video games, or exercising may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse. Talk to your health care professional, as well as your child or teen’s coaches, school nurse, and teachers. If needed, they can help adjust your child or teen’s school activities during her/his recovery.

We now take several precautions as a family to prevent any further head injuries.  Helmets and face masks are worn in every contact sport.  Helmets are also worn for bike riding.  We are careful to keep the stairs clutter free, and bath rugs with rubber bottoms are placed in the bathrooms.

As a school nurse, I am much more aware of signs and symptoms.  Luke is able to participate in PE and recess, but I am very particular about which games and sports he plays, and also the supervision he is getting.
For instance, on Fridays his entire first grade is usually in the gym playing.  On this day, he does not participate

More information can be found at the following links:

Health Care Professionals:
Sports Coaches and Administrators:

School Professionals:

To learn more about the Heads Up initiatives and to order your own materials, visit

You can also share your stories and ask the CDC questions at

I wrote this blog post while participating in a SocialMoms blogging program for which I may receive a thank you kit.” For more information on how you can participate, click here.”


Unknown said...

New follower from social moms. Great safety measures.

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

This is such an important topic, especially in today's society with children starting sports at very early ages. As someone who suffered a severe concussion in high school that went unnoticed until I blacked out the next day at practice, I can attest to how serious these injuries are and how important it is for parents and coaches to be aware of the symptoms.

Mikey said...

Great post, Christi! As a dad who's daughter is a Ballet dance FIEND, I appreciate all the great tips that you provide! Thanks!


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