Concussions take time and proper care to heal, but most kids recover fully. However, if your child experiences a second concussion before the first has healed, serious and long-lasting symptoms can occur. At Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, we provide thorough tests, expert care and consultations about returning to activities.
Here’s is what you can expect:
All head injuries require evaluations by trained medical professionals, even if they don’t lead to a blackout. Urgent care doctors, nurse practitioners or other primary care providers can perform a concussion test.
As part of the physical exam, a health care provider will check for signs of injury to the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes they will order X-rays to check for fractures, or an MRI or CT scans to check for signs of tissue damage and swelling.
Unfortunately, these imaging tests don’t always show damage that has occurred, because changes often happen on a cellular level. For that reason, a proper diagnosis requires a complete physical exam.
If initial tests point to a head concussion, your child should have a complete medical evaluation before returning to school, sports, work or other daily activities. Your primary care providers might refer you to Gillette for a specialty evaluation and follow-up care.
Nurse practitioners who specialize in pediatric rehabilitation or neurosurgery at Gillette perform exams and develop care plans. As part of an evaluation, we might conduct tests, such as Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), to screen for neurocognitive changes and to track healing progress.
The best way to treat a concussion is to initially let the brain rest. Often, concussion treatment plans will include recommendations to eliminate or limit:
- Reading on books or screens.
- Video games and other types of screen time.
- Working and driving (for teens).
If your child experiences a concussion, they should limit their physical activity, allowing the brain to rest and heal. Reintroduce physical activity gradually, as the brain and body can tolerate it. An experienced medical team can help your child return to school and activities.
Gradual Return to Activities and School
Your child gradually returns to regular activities, as recommended by your care providers. If symptoms don’t return, they can increase the amount of time spent on activities such as schoolwork or exercise.
The need for follow-up care depends on your child’s injury and symptoms. Some kids might work with specialists in speech-language pathology, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Your child also might undergo evaluations with psychologists, psychiatrists and neuropsychologists, if needed. Clinical social workers and psychologists can work with schools to plan any necessary accommodations.