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    Pediatric Concussion Facts

    What is a concussion?

    A concussion is a head injury with a loss of brain function, which is usually temporary.

    A jarring of the brain in any direction can cause a person to lose alertness (become unconscious). Most people who have a concussion never pass out, but they may describe seeing all white, black, or stars. A person can have a concussion and not realize it.

    How can a concussion happen?

    A concussion can result from a fall, sports activity, car accident, or other incident where the head sustains an impact.

    Can a helmet prevent a concussion?

    While wearing a helmet can help individuals avoid fractures and lacerations, there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet.

    What are common symptoms of a concussion?

    • Acting confused, feeling ‘spacy,” or not thinking straight
    • Being drowsy, hard to wake up, or similar changes
    • Headache
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Memory loss (amnesia) of events before the injury or right after
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Seeing flashing lights
    • Feeling like you have "lost time"

    When should a person seek immediate medical care?

    While an individual should seek medical care if he or she experiences any of the above symptoms, it is especially critical to seek immediate care if any of the following symptoms are present:

    • Changes in alertness and consciousness
    • Convulsions (seizures)
    • Muscle weakness on one or both sides
    • Persistent confusion
    • Remaining unconsciousness (coma)
    • Repeated vomiting
    • Unequal pupils
    • Unusual eye movements

    • Walking problems

    What is post-concussive syndrome?

    Following a concussion individuals can experience prolonged symptoms that include, but are not limited to, persistent headaches, visual disturbances, imbalance, mood changes, depression, anxiety, and difficulties with concentration and cognition. Younger brains are chemically different than adults, and children and adolescents can suffer more serious consequences if they sustain a concussion.

    When can an athlete return to play after a concussion?

    There is a very real risk of long-term neurological complications or even death if an athlete returns to play too soon after a concussion. Before returning to play, an athlete must become symptom-free and demonstrate normal neuro-cognitive function and then begin a gradual return to sports activity.

    What can happen if an athlete returns too soon after a concussion?

    If an athlete sustains a second concussion before symptoms of the earlier one have subsided, a condition known as “second-impact syndrome” can occur, where the brain swells rapidly and catastrophically. This deadly second blow may occur days, weeks or minutes after an initial concussion independent of severity or grade of concussion. The condition can be fatal, or if not can cause severe and permanent disability. Teenagers are disproportionately vulnerable to second-impact syndrome.

    Pediatrics at California Pacific Medical Center

    California Pacific Medical Center, a San Francisco hospital that is part of the Sutter Health network, offers pediatric care to babies, young children, and adolescents to age 18 through our network of primary and specialty care pediatricians. Our doctors provide care at clinics throughout the Bay Area and at our hospital inpatient units.