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.
A child with a head injury may experience:
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.
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.
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.
First Steps of Action: