Head Injury

Head injuries can be serious and should never be ignored, even if the child isn’t complaining of specific symptoms. The pediatric nurse practitioners at SportsSafe, serving the people of Austin, Texas, can evaluate children who have sustained head injuries. Parents of children with possible head injuries should contact SportsSafe to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

What causes head injuries?

The head provides protection during normal movements and mild impacts. However, when the head is subjected to more force or pressure than it can handle, injuries to the soft tissue, skull, and/or brain may occur.

Head injuries occur most often after a child experiences a trauma to the head, such as a sudden impact during a sporting event or a fall that affects the head. Children may also sustain head injuries after car accidents or other incidents that move the head forcefully.

What are the symptoms of head injuries?

A child with a head injury may experience:

  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Lumps or bruises on the head
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Behavioral or mood changes
  • Seizures
  • Amnesia
  • Loss of coordination

Why are head injuries dangerous?

Head injuries that affect the brain can be serious and even fatal; those that cause bleeding or swelling in the brain require immediate treatment in the emergency room to prevent complications or death. Head injuries that cause a concussion should also be addressed promptly. It is important to talk with your primary care provider, school nurse, athletic trainer or the providers at SportsSafe if your child sustains a head injury. Patients with a concussion must avoid high-risk physical activities while the brain heals. Otherwise, a second, more serious brain injury may occur.

How does SportsSafe treat head injuries?

When a patient presents in the office with a head injury, the pediatric nurse practitioners at SportsSafe will collect information about the patient’s history and perform a physical exam and neurologic exam. They may also order other tests to determine the extent of the injury. With this information and test results, they will develop a customized treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to help the patient heal as quickly as possible while preventing further injury to the brain.

How long does it take to heal from a concussive head injury?

Most children heal from a concussive head injury within 2-4 weeks. However, every patient is unique. SportsSafe monitors patients carefully to ensure that they’ve healed completely before returning to physical activity. Before clearing a child to participate in physical activity, the nurse practitioners at SportsSafe will perform a series of examinations and tests to assure the child has healed.

Head Injury vs Concussion. What’s the difference?

Both a head injury and concussion are typically caused by a hard hit to the head. Both should cause soreness on the head at the site of the hit and may cause a large, localized bump or bruise as well. A head injury alone causes localized pain and localized injury to the skin and should cause no other symptoms, whereas a concussion should present with additional symptoms. With a concussion, the patient’s brain moves rapidly in the skull causing symptoms of brain cell injury (see symptoms below). Typically, this occurs after a hard hit to the head, or a hard hit to the body, causing whiplash.
So, what’s the key difference? If you have a child who sustains a hard head hit and only reports soreness at the site of the hit and denies all other symptoms listed below, this is likely a head injury and is not a concussion. However, if after a hit, symptoms are mentioned in addition to soreness at the site of the hit, it’s worth getting evaluated for concussion.

Suspect a concussion?

First Steps of Action:

  • Stop current activity and do not resume any contact activity
  • Monitor behavior, if any Red Flags are noticed, go to the ER
    1. Loss of Consciousness for >1min
    2. Uneven Muscle Weakness or Sensory Loss
    3. Severe Loss of Balance
    4. Repeated Vomiting (2 or more times)
    5. Continued Amnesia or Confusion >1hr
    6. Symptoms continue to worsen in severity
  • Seek initial evaluation by an on-site provider, such as your child’s athletic trainer or school nurse. Then, contact your child’s pediatrician for evaluation.
  • When an evaluation is needed in the evenings or weekends, try After Hours Kids. They’re open nightly. Go to www.afterhourskids.com to schedule or call 512-499-2452 after 6pm.
  • For headaches Tylenol is recommended during the first 3 days after the injury
  • When directed by your athletic trainer or pediatrician, schedule an appointment for evaluation with SportsSafe. We typically perform initial evaluation 3-5 days after injury.

Common Symptoms:

Your child may report symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance difficulties/dizziness
  • Light or noise sensitivity
  • Feeling down, sluggish, hazy, confused
  • Trouble with concentration

You, as the parent, may notice your child is:

  • Not acting like themselves (They can seem more irritable or emotional)
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping excessively
  • Having difficulty with coordination or balance
  • More forgetful
  • More easily confused 

Concussion Facts

  • Most people who sustain a concussion do not lose consciousness.
  • Though most kids/teens don’t recognize this, seeing stars and “bell ringers” are signs of a concussion
  • Often younger athletes take longer to heal. On average, concussion recovery takes 3-4 weeks.
  • Recovery is typically slow and steady. It requires more rest, time, listening to one’s body and stopping an activity that is greatly worsening symptoms.

Need an evaluation? How SportsSafe can help:

  • Neurologic exam and injury assessment tests (cognitive, balance, and eye tracking).
  • Communication with school personnel (athletic trainers, coaches, nurses, academic advisors) relaying academic & athletic accommodations during the recovery process.
  • Clearance to return to sports and activities (Texas law requires any athlete with a suspected concussion to be seen and cleared by a physician before returning to play)