August 16, 2013 by

Here’s a question for parents—Can you describe a concussion? It’s more than a headache or a momentary blackout. Doctors consider it a traumatic brain injury, ranging from mild to severe, caused by a blow or jolt to the head. With young athletes back on the field, Kody Moffatt, M.D., a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, wants parents, coaches, and trainers to know the signs.

“We know much more about concussions today than we did even a year or two ago. A concussion in a child or teenager is different than in an adult. The impact on the developing brain can be a real problem,” says Dr. Moffatt.

Football poses a risk, particularly when players tackle with their heads down.

“I tell parents that football, in general, is a safe sport as long as young people don’t lead with the head,” he explains. “Coaches in our area have been really good about teaching young, developing players to use the shoulder or chest as the first point of contact.”

Symptoms of a concussion are as individual as children themselves. Visible signs of a suspected concussion are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow to get up
  • Unsteady on feet, falling over, or trouble balancing
  • Dazed or blank look
  • Confused, not able to remember plays or events

Dr. Moffatt says athletes with a suspected concussion should not return to the field. They need to see a doctor. Immediate emergency care should be provided when the player is vomiting, has a seizure, experiences neck pain, is increasingly confused, or is unable to stay awake.

Nationally and across all levels of play, from professional to recreational leagues, the emphasis has been on “return to play.” This focus surrounds the safe return to the game following diagnosis and treatment. This fall, “return to learn” will receive increased attention, too.

“Before young athletes are returning to play, we need to get them back in the classroom symptom-free and able to learn like they did before the concussion,” says Dr. Moffatt. “We have to keep in mind that we’re dealing with a brain injury. This can result in learning problems that impact a student athlete’s academic performance.”

The new Sports Medicine Clinic at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center will work with student athletes, their families, and teachers to customize a “return to learn” plan. Dr. Moffatt considers it to be an important part of the recovery process.

“Return to learn is a significant step, in my mind. We’re considering cognitive function and how we help the brain heal,” he says. “We’ll work with schools to help kids get back on track in the classroom.”

The Sports Medicine Clinic at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is open to families by appointment. No physician referral is needed. To make an appointment, call 402-955-PLAY (7529). For more information, visit ChildrensOmaha.org/SportsMedicine.

Passionate about pediatric sports medicine, Dr. Kody Moffatt is a highly regarded, well-known expert in the field. An athletic trainer turned pediatrician, he holds a Master of Science degree in orthopaedic surgery and is a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine. Dr. Moffatt helps shape sports medicine policy on a state and national level as an advisor to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Nebraska High School Activities Association.

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