Did you know that sports and recreational activities generate about 21 percent of traumatic brain injuries to children and adolescents? A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury in which the brain abruptly moves back and forth, triggering a disturbance in function. It is important for parents, caregivers, and coaches to be able to recognize concussion signs and symptoms to prevent further injury to the child and know the most effective way for preventing concussions.

Symptoms of a concussion usually begin not long after the injury and typically can last for up to 10 days. However, there are reports of symptoms lasting up to a year. These symptoms can include: headache, feeling of pressure in the head, dizziness, ringing in the ears, disrupted vision, nausea, vomiting, amnesia, temporary loss of consciousness, slurred speech, fatigue, or confusion. If a child or teen exhibits these signs after an injury, such as a sack in football or a hit in the head in soccer, it is recommended you take your child to the emergency department for further evaluation. It is important to seek medical care immediately because concussions can affect characteristics of a person’s typical functioning such as memory, reflexes, judgment, balance, muscle coordination, and speech.

One of the most effective methods for concussion prevention in sports and recreational activities is the use of a proper-fitting helmet certified by the ASTM International, formally known as American Society for Testing and Materials. Helmets are 85-87 percent effective in reducing risk for a brain injury. For recreational activities, such as bicycling or roller blading, the “Eyes-Ears-Mouth Test” is a simple way to ensure the helmet fits your child correctly. First, have your child put his or her helmet on and look up. The child should be able to see the bottom rim of the helmet, and no more than one or two fingers should fit between the bottom of the helmet and eyebrows. Second, the helmet straps should from a “V” just under and slightly in front of the ear, not hanging below. Lastly, have your child open their mouth wide. The helmet should pull down on the top of his or her head for proper fitting. Only one finger should fit between the chin and chin strap. A properly fitted football helmet should reach around the middle of the forehead and, when on, it should fit snuggly and not move. The chinstrap should hold the helmet in place and the helmet should never be able to slide back and forth. Face pads should fit firmly against your face, without inhibiting your vision.

If you would like to learn more from McLane Children’s Medical Center experts, visit the annual Safe Kids Day and Bike Rodeo set from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the hospital at 1901 SW H.K. Dodgen Loop in Temple.

Krista Easley, BSN, RN, TCRN is a trauma coordinator at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center.