As a pediatric emergency physician and a hockey mom, concussions are at the forefront of my list of things to worry about (as if I don’t have enough already). This month’s issue of Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) just published an article on what our pediatricians and emergency medicine providers know about children and concussions. This article was particularly timely since I was asked to give advice to a family friend whose teammate smacked his head into a hockey board.
The article entitled “‘Pediatric Provider’, Self-Reported Knowledge, Practice, and Attitudes About Concussion” by Zonfrillo points out that many of our pediatric and emergency medicine providers may not be “in the know” regarding concussion discharge planning and diagnosis as well as child concussion recovery.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to a parent is to be an advocate for his or her child – in the emergency department, in the pediatrician’s office or at school. Part of being an effective health advocate for your child is being informed. Looking through the literature on concussions, you can find a dizzying array of information. My recommendation is that you read the CDC concussion guidelines at www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/index.html. Also, if your child suffers from a concussion, you should ask your provider about “return to play guidelines”.
Many times these guidelines are omitted from discharge instructions but serve an important role in determining when it’s safe for your child to return to sports. “Return to Play” is a stepwise approach for children or adults who have suffered a concussion that insures that they are completely asymptomatic when they return to sports. Return to play guidelines can also be found on the CDC site.
Also remember the best medicine is prevention. Always make sure that your child wears an appropriately sized helmet if they participate in contact sports.