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Brain

Proper Testing After A Concussion Is Crucial

Luke Olson plays soccer.

Concussions are one of the most common, unexpected injuries in both adults and children. While we usually think of athletes who are running around and occasionally into each other, the truth is it can happen to anyone.  

Anytime our head is impacted by a hard object, it is best to seek medical attention. ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test) is just one of the many tools we use to understand more of your child's concussion.  

Because our brains are developing during our childhood years, getting proper treatment after an injury is key. When accidents happen, Gillette Children’s has you covered. 

Understanding What A Concussion Is

A concussion can also be referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury. When the head gets hit or when a sudden impact causes the brain to move within the skull, it puts us at risk for a concussion. If treated in time, a concussion can recover quickly, however, some symptoms can last weeks or even months.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 1.6 to 3.8 million Americans might experience a concussion every year. Infants and preschoolers (ages 0 to 4) and teenagers and young adults (ages 15 to 19) are at highest risk for traumatic brain injuries.  

Activities that can cause brain injuries include:  

  • Team sports  
  • Biking 
  • Skiing  
  • Skating  
  • Scooters and skateboards  

While these are normal activities for children, safety is the most important role you can play as a parent or caretaker. Always remind and reinforce the importance of wearing a helmet that is appropriate for activities such as biking, horseback riding, skiing and skateboarding. 

Two boys ride their bikes.

Signs To Look Out For

Sometimes, a child won’t even know they have a head injury. While the most obvious sign is that they can become unconscious, other symptoms can be confused for something else. Remember that everyone responds differently to a traumatic brain injury, however, some signs of concussion might include: 

  • Balance problems 
  • Changes in school performance 
  • Dizziness 
  • Emotional changes, such as irritability, sadness or nervousness  
  • Tiredness 
  • Feeling foggy or confused 
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep 
  • Headache 
  • Impulsive behavior 
  • Nausea 
  • Sensitivity to noise or light 
  • Sleeping more than usual, or less than usual 
  • Slower reaction times 
  • Taking longer to understand or process information 
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering or paying attention 
  • Visual problems 

Concussions take time to properly heal. If your child gets a second concussion while the first one is still healing, there may be long-lasting effects. Gillette Children’s can determine the severity of the situation and create a treatment plan so that your child can properly heal. 

With Proper Diagnosis And Treatment, Children May Be Able To Resume Activities

At Gillette Children’s, all head injuries are evaluated by a medical professional. Urgent care doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners or a primary care provider 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, an MRI or a CT scan to check for signs of tissue damage and swelling.  

It is important to know that imaging tests do not always show the damage because changes can happen on a cellular level. For that reason, a proper diagnosis requires a complete physical exam.  

Apart from the evaluation, Gillette might conduct other tests, such as Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), to screen for neurocognitive changes, track healing progress and help determine if your child needs more treatment. 

A Gillette patient takes an eye test with a provider.

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