Concussion Q & A

Top of Mind for Fall Sports

In the last decade, we’ve learned a lot about how concussions can cause transient changes to the brain. The research has changed how we treat concussions, especially for children and their developing brains. While a concussion is not typically accompanied by structural damage to the brain tissue, "It’s no longer just a, 'lay down for a minute before you go back outside to play,'" says Rachel Winthrop, community liaison for the HealthEast Concussion Clinic, which sees patients age 13 and over. Now it is recommended that patients with concussions follow-up with specialists trained in this area of expertise for assistance with managing symptoms and returning to their normal activities after the injury.


Here Winthrop answers our questions about concussions:

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a bump, blow or jolt to the head that causes a temporary disruption in normal brain function. Sometimes kids don’t know or report that they’ve had a head injury, so parents don’t find out until they start noticing physical symptoms or changes in behavior.

What are some of the symptoms parents should look out for?

This can be confusing because the symptoms are vague and can become more intense in the first few days. In general, you’re watching to see if they have a headache, dizziness or nausea – or if light bothers them. They may also have a hard time focusing or feel extra emotional. (For a full checklist of symptoms, click here.)

What is the treatment for a concussion?

That can vary, but for the first few days at least, you want them to get a lot of rest and avoid anything mentally or physically demanding, such as television or video games. You also want to monitor their symptoms. If they worsen significantly or new ones pop up – that’s when you want to get them back to their doctor.

When should I let my child go back to school or sports?

That can also vary. With school, there are different issues: Even if they’re feeling better, can they focus? Does light bother them? A neuropsychologist can help determine if they need more time to heal or an accommodation in the classroom – such as a lighter course load or more time to study for tests – so they can get through the school day.  In terms of sports, it’s similar. You’ll also want to work with your child’s athletic trainer or medical provider to get them back to play.

If you suspect your child has a concussion, bring them to the Concussion Clinic at Bethesda Hospital. We'll provide neuropsych testing, a diagnosis, monitoring tools and a plan to get your child safely back to their studies and the sports they love. Call us at 651-232-2000 for more information or to make an appointment.