Is it just a harmless bump on the head — or something more serious? Our pediatric concussion experts have the experience, equipment and medical know-how to tell the difference. We take a team approach to assess and treat mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions in children of all ages.
A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury that occurs when someone’s brain moves around inside the skull or bangs against it. Although the injury may seem mild, concussions in children can affect health, thinking ability, behavior/mood, school performance and social interactions.
A concussion can be caused by:
- a fall, especially in babies, toddlers and young children
- a sports injury
- a crash involving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), bike or automobile
- a physical attack, a school fight or child abuse
- any major head trauma, blow to the head
With plenty of rest and reduced activity, kids often recover on their own from a concussion in a week or two. Concussions in other children might require weeks or even months of therapy, rehabilitation, and taking a break from school, sports and other physical and cognitive activities. One of the most important factors for a successful recovery is easing back in to regular activities slowly over time, one activity at a time, with guidance from your health care provider.
- photo ID
- medical and pharmacy insurance cards
- preferred pharmacy name and phone number
- names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
- guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
- any forms required for school, camp, sports, etc.
- a list of prior immunizations
Bring these forms for your first appointment:
At Nemours Children’s Hospital (NCH), we take a proactive and education-oriented approach to caring for concussions in children. We work closely with Central Florida’s coaches, trainers, teachers and parents to raise awareness about the dangers of concussions in children and teens.
Concussions directly involve the brain and can affect how kids feel, behave and function in school and sports. That’s why our pediatric concussion experts work together with specialists in a variety of fields to help your child or teen gradually and safely ease back into normal activities.
Pediatric concussion care at Nemours Children’s Hospital (NCH) includes specialists and professionals representing several medical disciplines. We work as a team to care for concussion symptoms in children.
Our concussion care team includes:
- pediatric rehabilitation medicine (brain injury specialists)
- neuropsychology (brain function specialists)
- sports medicine
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- speech therapy
- otolaryngology (who can assess and help with balance problems)
- ophthalmology (eye care)
This coordinated approach ensures that your child will have access to all the experts who might be needed.
A Personalized Treatment Program for Concussions in Children
The Comprehensive Concussion Center at NCH has a coordinated care team that will develop a personalized treatment program based on your child’s concussion symptoms and changes in functioning.
With most concussions in children, kids often just need lots of rest from physical and mental activities and a careful return to normal activities (with clearance from a doctor). But this process takes time and it’s different for every kid. Your child may want to get back to normal life more quickly, but for general guidelines, follow this basic return-to-play home program.
Activities to avoid until cleared by a doctor include:
- physical education (gym class) and recess
- contact sports
- rough play
- exercise, including "light" workouts, such as jogging or bike riding
- work or volunteer hours (not even part-time)
- driving (for any reason)
- socializing in loud, bright or crowded places
Some kids require specialized diagnostic, monitoring and treatment techniques. Rarely, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other tests may be needed to check for more severe damage. If so, you can get pediatric medical imaging tests right here at our hospital.
After your child or teen is injured it’s important to follow up with a health care provider. When it comes to a head injury or concussion, regardless of how mild it seems or how quickly symptoms resolve, it’s important to monitor concussion symptoms in children very closely. Some younger children may even need to be monitored overnight in the hospital.
Here are some steps to help your child recover from concussion symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest, both physical and cognitive (mental).
- Take acetaminophen as needed for headache.
- Stay hydrated (this improves cerebral blood flow, which is reduced after concussion).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol (these can further reduce blood flow to the injured brain).
- Maintain a good diet (spinach, cocoa and cucumbers are good for improving blood flow).
Increased attention to concussions in sports means rules are changing and new laws have been created for kids’ safety. Florida's Youth and Scholastic Athlete Concussion Bill (HB 291) addresses concussion symptoms in children and prevents kids suspected of sustaining a concussion from returning to play without clearance from an “appropriate medical practitioner.”
Under Florida law, there’s no such thing as same-day return to play. Never return your child to play or school until all concussion symptoms have resolved.