Dr. Matthew O’Donnell

Dr. Matthew O’Donnell

With fall around the corner, training for football and soccer are well underway. Sports and outdoor activities are good ways to stay healthy and active, but there are risks of injury, too, especially with contact sports.

Concussions are common sports-related injuries that frequently go unnoticed or overlooked. Take time to learn the warning signs of concussion to keep your child from experiencing a more serious brain injury.

“A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions,” said Dr. Matthew O’Donnell, a family practice physician at Chestnut Hill Hospital. “They can be caused by a blow to the head or when the upper body and head are shaken. Brains of children and teens have not fully developed, putting them at risk for more serious brain damage from a concussion.”

Symptoms of a serious head injury include repeated vomiting, loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds, a headache that gets worse over time, changes in behavior, changes in coordination such as stumbling or clumsiness, disorientation and slurred speech. If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, he or she should seek medical attention immediately.

When someone suffers a more mild concussion, he or she could lose consciousness temporarily and be confused. Other common symptoms include:

• Headache

• Amnesia

• Dizziness

• Ringing in the ears

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Slurred speech

• Fatigue

Sometimes symptoms will not appear until a few hours or days after the injury, such as difficulty concentrating, memory loss, personality changes, and sensitivity to light and noise, sleep disturbances, feeling depressed and issues tasting and smelling. Anyone with these symptoms should rest and not return to sports or other vigorous activities until they have been checked and approved by a medical professional.

The effects of a concussion are usually temporary; however, if those with a concussion do not take time to heal, they can experience serious complications.

“Resting and slowly returning to regular activities is the best way to recover from a concussion,” said Dr. O’Donnell. “If a concussion is left untreated, you risk getting another concussion or permanent brain damage.”

Take precautions when your child participates in contact sports, and make sure equipment such as helmets and pads are in good condition. If athletes experience a blow to the head and feel disoriented, have them sit out the rest of the game. They are more susceptible to getting another or more serious concussion if they keep playing.

Chestnut Hill Hospital treats many patients with many sports-related injuries including concussions. To learn more about concussions or to find a doctor, visit www.ChestnutHillHealth.com.