Explaining Concussion and Treatment to Young Patients

Dr. Catherine McGill, PsD, Pediatric Neuropsychologist, explains it like this:

“When you suffer a concussion, the inside of the brain rocks back and forth, which starts a chemical change. It’s like you took a snow globe and shook it up really good. The snowflakes are the chemicals inside your brain, and now they’ve gone off track. Some of the chemicals and processes have now become disrupted. Not permanently, but they do need time to get back on track.”

She explains that this chemical disruption can also affect our emotions, so that we may get more emotional, more easily, for a period of time following a concussion. If there is a history of anxiety or depression, symptoms of these conditions may worsen during recovery. Parents need to be alert for these signs so they can be treated appropriately.

In the first 24 to 48 hours, it’s best to limit screen time such as cell phones and tablets, as these can aggravate symptoms. However, isolating young people from their normal activities and social network of friends can actually cause or worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Once the child shows lessening symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, headaches and fatigue, from their concussion, it’s important to get them back to normal activities, including school work, in a moderated way that is not too much too soon, but which moves them slowly through recovery to full health.

There is a balance, says Dr. McGill, that needs to be identified, where healing can and will occur. Work with your physician and your student’s teachers and school counselors, to help determine the balance that is appropriate for your child.