Take Me Out of the Ball Game: Kids and Concussions

You could say I’m a pretty chill mom when it comes to most things. Toddler won’t eat? Eh, they won’t starve themselves. Kid falls on the playground? Walk it off, tough guy. Actual serious emergency? Stay calm; crying won’t help anyone. I used to worry I was too relaxed and that I would probably lose my marbles if something happened to my kid, but now that my kids are a bit older and we’ve been around the block a few times, it turns out I’m actually just really chill. Nice.

A lot of my attitude is just personality, for sure, but I also understand that knowledge is power.

We have an awesome pediatrician who has spent the last decade educating me rather than just diagnosing kids and sending us off, so I feel confident and capable assessing and addressing my children’s physical needs. My husband and I have spent 11+ years in youth ministry, so I’ve walked with teenagers and their families through many crises both real and imagined, and I’m pretty well-versed on how to deal with common emotional issues. I read a lot, talk a lot, listen a lot, and learn a lot, so I don’t have to worry a lot.

When my kids got big enough to play sports, chill mom over here was ready to let ’em at it.

I know injuries happen in sports, but it’s part of life; you move on. I never expected my kids would play so competitively that they would be constantly strained and injured — in fact, I’ve written about not taking youth sports too seriously — but I figured torn muscles, bruises, maybe a broken arm…those are all just part of childhood. I guess I was naively unprepared a few weeks ago when my eight-year-old son was playing in his championship semi-final baseball game and he took a line drive to the face. He usually plays shortstop, but this inning he happened to be on the mound. While the coach pitching instinctively jumped out of the way, my boy doubled over clutching his head after the ball struck him right between the eyes.

I fought the urge to run onto the field, but you bet I ran to the dugout.

His coaches comforted him and checked for any signs of emergency. He wasn’t bleeding, confused, or dizzy. His pupils were normal, he didn’t feel nauseous, and he knew how many fingers we were holding up. In fact, he was doing so well, he skipped the rest of the inning but then went right back out there and helped his team win the game. On to the championship they went! 

The next morning he woke up with a headache (naturally), but still no other symptoms. He took an afternoon nap in preparation for the big championship game that night, but when he woke up, he started seeing spots in the air. He stumbled getting out of bed and asked for medicine for his headache. While these symptoms quickly wore off, my husband took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. No more championship game. No more All-Star team. No more sports for at least two weeks. If he gets another concussion within 12 months, he’ll have to sit out of sports for a whole year. To an eight-year-old boy, that’s devastating. To a mom of an eight-year-old boy and his seven-year-old brother with whom he constantly plays and wrestles and bounces and does dangerous things, that’s nearly impossible.

We’re still waiting for medical clearance for my son, and we’re going to look into more protective measures for him next season, like an upgraded helmet and gear. Concussions are no joke, and if you suspect your child has one, he or she should be seen by a doctor right away. While concussions are often associated with sports injuries, most actually happen off the field, in car or bike accidents, playground falls, or even everyday activities at home.

If your child (or adult you know!) hits his or her head, look for the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache that won’t go away or gets worse
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Pupils different sizes
  • Extreme fatigue or inability to be roused from sleep
  • Changes in behavior or personality

These symptoms can show up all together or just one or two at a time, and sometimes not for 24-72 hours after the injury occurs. You can also have a concussion even if you do not lose consciousness — and losing consciousness does not necessarily mean there is a concussion. Check out this article from KidsHealth.com for more info on recognizing and treating concussions. 

Even a chill mom like me has to remember that while injuries are just part of childhood, the stuff we can’t see often has a more lasting effect than what we can. A broken arm I can handle, but traumatic brain injury…this is new territory for me. Last weekend we introduced our kids to “The Sandlot” (do y’all remember all those swear words? I definitely did not remember all those swear words.), and I was reminded how a hit like my son took could have cost his vision or been far more serious than it was. And subsequent concussions can be far more difficult to treat and recover from, even when they happen months or years later. Prevention and protection are the key words here, but does that mean your little all-star can never be normal or play sports ever again? Of course not.

At least not for a chill mom like me.

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