Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
A new study has confirmed what doctors have long advised–that children who suffer concussions should engage in “brain rest” and abstain from cognitively challenging activities including reading, playing video games, and sending text messages for several days after the injury. More from The Boston Globe on the study:
A new study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital tracked 335 student athletes who were treated for concussions incurred on the playing field. They found that those who took the most time off from tasks that required a lot of thinking had the quickest recovery from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other concussion symptoms.
A majority of those who got the most cognitive rest were symptom-free 40 days after their head injury, but it took 100 days for symptoms to resolve in the majority of those who got the least amount of rest, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
While the study couldn’t determine exactly how much rest was optimal, study co-author Dr. William Meehan said the results confirmed the sensibility of recommendations to avoid mental challenges right after a concussion.
“For the first three to five days, we tell our patients with concussions that they should really aim to be at a zero level or complete cognitive rest,” said Meehan, director of the sports concussion clinic at Boston Children’s. That means no reading, homework, text messaging, or video game playing; basically, it’s fine to lie in bed quietly, watching TV or listening to music with the volume on low.
“Those experiencing severe symptoms may prefer to be resting anyway,” Meehan said, “but those with mild symptoms may think they can go back to school or resume exercise right away, which may delay their recovery.”
After a few days, kids can slowly add mental activities such as doing a crossword puzzle or sending a few text messages to see how they feel. “If symptoms exacerbate, they should go back to resting,” Meehan said. If they’re feeling okay, they can continue to gradually add mental challenges, resuming some school work on a lighter schedule. Throughout, they should continue to assess their symptoms and cut back if the headaches or dizziness return.
The brain likely needs to rest from mental processing to reserve its precious energy to balance its systems after the injury. Neurologists believe that the blunt trauma to the brain triggers nerve cells to release a flood of chemicals causing an imbalance that leads to concussion symptoms. At the same time, there’s often reduced blood flow to the brain following an injury which lowers the brain’s supply of glucose for energy. Any glucose expended for mental challenges means less energy is available to restore a biochemical balance.
“Concussions are really a problem with brain function and the movement of ions, or charged particles, around the cell membrane,” Meehan said. This type of malfunction, though, doesn’t appear on brain imaging tests, though technological advances may enable such imaging in the future.
For the time being, parents helping their kids recover from concussions may need to explain why rest is necessary when the brain scan looks fine.
Image: Kids playing soccer, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
More than 9,400 children are treated each year in U.S. emergency rooms after suffering injuries in their highchairs, most often from falling out of poorly secured chairs, according to a new study published by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The numbers represent a significant rise in the number of highchair-related injuries–a 22 percent jump between the years 2003 and 2010. More from US News:
Despite the fact that millions of defective highchairs have been recalled in recent years, researchers at the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy found that the number of children under the age of 3 who were treated in emergency departments between 2003 and 2010 increased by 22 percent. On average, one child each hour was treated for such an injury, according to the study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
“Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs,” said Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research, in a statement. “High chairs are typically used in kitchens and dining areas, so when a child falls from the elevated height of the high chair, he is often falling head first onto a hard surface such as tile or wood flooring with considerable force.
Most often, the children seen were treated for closed head injuries, which include concussions and internal head injuries. More than one-third of the children injured (37 percent) were treated for closed head injuries.
Not only were closed head injuries the most common injury associated with highchairs, but they were also the type that saw the greatest increase between 2003 and 2010 – up nearly 90 percent, from 2,558 in 2003 to 4,789 in 2010.
Additionally, 33 percent were treated for bumps and bruises, and 19 percent were treated for cuts associated with falls from highchairs. Overall, 93 percent of the injuries involved a fall from a highchair or booster seat.
When information was available for what children were doing just before a fall from a highchair or booster seat, two-thirds of them were climbing or standing in the chair, which suggests that the chair’s safety restraints were either not being used or were ineffective.
Parents are urged to make sure their children are properly strapped into their high chairs and booster seats. If you are concerned about the safety of your highchairs, check the Parents.com Recall Finder, sign up for our Recall Alerts email, or check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to see whether your model has been recalled.
Watch this video for more tips on keeping your baby safe in his high chair:
Plus: Find a broad selection of high chairs at Shop Parents.
Image: Baby in highchair, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Concussions in youth sports are on the rise, and a new report from the Institute of Medicine urges parents of girls to pay special attention, citing a “culture of resistance” that has kept public education efforts from having widespread effect. More from NBC News:
Despite widespread coverage, damage from concussions is underestimated and blows to the head suffered by young athletes often go unreported, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine released on Wednesday. In addition, football helmets fail to protect against concussions, the report found, although the committee, a group of pediatricians, educators, psychiatrists and engineers, recommended protective gear to prevent other injuries.
The number of athletes aged 19 and younger who were treated for concussions and other sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries rose from 150,000 in 2001 to a quarter million in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. In college athletics, the rate of concussions in more than a dozen sports doubled between the school year that ended in 1989 and the one that ended in 2004.
The committee also found that young women and girls have a higher rate of concussions than boys in the sports they play, including soccer and basketball. And although the rate of concussions in cheerleading remain low compared to other sports, for example, the rate of concussions in the sport increased at a rate of 26 percent each year from 1998 to 2008. That marks a greater rate of increase than for any other sport played by young women at the high school and college levels.
While improved diagnosis may account for at least some of the higher concussion rates “there is probably also a difference in the competitiveness in children and their sports,” said committee member Mayumi Prins, an associate professor in neurosurgery at the UCLA. “Children are being trained earlier in sports and they’re focusing on a single sport rather than diversifying. In the female population we do see that the way girls play sports has changed in the last 10 years — they’re more aggressive.”
Without early diagnosis and proper treatment, teens and young kids are at greater risk of repeated concussions and potential long-term damage. One major factor keeping kids from getting treatment: many think it’s their duty to keep mum about their symptoms,and get back in the game.
Image: Girl playing soccer, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that kids who suffer a concussion, a common sports-related injury, shouldn’t return to school right away, lest they exacerbate the temporary symptoms of concussion that relate to learning and retaining information. More from Time.com:
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Although children may appear to be physically normal after having a concussion, they may actually have trouble learning new information and retaining it. Going back to school may exacerbate these symptoms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a new clinical report presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando.
Research shows that it takes about three weeks for a child to fully recover from a concussion. If their symptoms are especially severe, they should stay home from school. Even though kids with concussions may appear asymptomatic, they often report difficulty focusing on schoolwork and taking tests, especially in math, science, and foreign-languages. Medical experts are worried that too much learning stimulation can overwhelm a brain that is still recovering, and make it even more difficult for a child to get back on track. If systems are mild, parents can consider sending their kids back to class, but should inform teachers about the concussion so adjustments can be made to the pace of the class if needed. The researchers call this necessary step, “cognitive rest.”
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Youth football programs are continuing to thrive, despite repeated warnings about the danger of head injury and other issues related to repeated hits and even minor concussions. Parents are hearing the warnings that sports-related injuries happen every 25 seconds in the US, research shows, and programs are instituting concussion prevention and care rules. But kids are playing football at the same or even higher rates than in the past. Today.com has more:
While many football parents can’t help but worry when their kids play the sport – after all, you send your kid to battle in a helmet and full gladiator gear – there’s no major indication parental fear is resulting in fewer kids playing, according to current statistics.
Pop Warner, the largest and oldest youth football organization in the U.S., has seen the number of youth players – close to 250,000 – remain steady from 2011 to 2012, according to Josh Pruce, national director of media relations at Pop Warner headquarters in Langhorne, Penn.
And Pruce says in the five years prior to 2012, there was a consistent, steady growth of 1 percent to 2 percent of players each year.
Pruce says that he has seen an increase in questions and concerns about head injuries related to the sport. “It’s something we hear from parents and coaches. But we tell them safety is Pop Warner’s number one priority.”
Image: Young football player, via Shutterstock
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