Even the most talented kids don’t usually ride a bike and play football at the same time. But these two activities are related when you are talking about traumatic brain injuries and protecting your child from concussions. I’m a bit fired up after just attending a seminar on Tramautic Brain Injury (TBI) in children, so allow for a bit of unwinding…
Let’s just start with bike riding. To begin with, your child needs to be wearing a helmet. Bottom line. They don’t ride a bike (or a skateboard, or a scooter, or go rollerblading) without a helmet. You’re the parent, you need to set the rules. When it comes to head injuries, traumatic brain injury is the leading form of acquired brain injury in children. The resulting damage of a bump on the head can be devastating: from physical and cognitive wounds seen immediately, to longer-lasting learning problems, executive skills delays and behavior challenges. For the children with a brain injury, time “reveals” rather than “heals” all wounds.
For older children playing sports, the topic of concussion has been in the news lately. Even the NFL is recognizing that football injuries to the head have lasting effects for adult players (early onset Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.) and are modifying their tackling and defense rules. If your child receives a bump on the head during a sports practice or game, no matter how “mild” the impact, they need to be removed from play. Even an initial “mild” concussion can have devastating effects if there is a second impact. The increase in intracranial pressure can be catastrophic. The child needs to be evaluated by a doctor, and may need a substantial amount of time away from the field before returning to play. Increasingly, doctors are recommending neurocognitive testing for children who suffer from a head blow, to ensure that the child has returned to a base cognitive function. Even a student-athlete with a scholarship on the line should not return to play until cleared by a doctor. It’s just not worth it, medically or financially.
As a speech-language pathologist, I work with children with TBI resulting from devastating accidents over which they (and their families) had no control. These families are often an example of resilience, patience, and love. The parents would also be the first to tell you that you don’t want your child to go through what their child has gone through. Taking a few little steps can often prevent that from happening.