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Kids And Concussion: Wear A Helmet, Act As If You're Not


Many often associate concussion with contact sports like football. But Dr. Benjamin Newman, a neurosurgeon with Methodist Health System, says a blow to the head in almost any activity can lead to a concussion - even kids riding those new bikes they got for Christmas.

Highlights from Dr. Newman’s interviews:

Head injury’s more common in kids than adults: “For a number of reasons. One is that kids tend to be a little less aware of their bodies. They’re engaging in slightly more risky activities. Kids have a larger head as a proportion of the size of their body. So they’re more likely to sustain a head injury just because of the nature of the way their proportions are. Head injury in winter sports tends to be more common in males who are in their teens, probably because of risk-taking behavior. So all of that needs to be factored in when you’re talking about risk and rates of head injury in children.”

Are concussions more serious for children than adults? “What I can say is I think children are probably more likely to under report their symptoms because they’re motivated to go back to whatever activity they were engaging before, so they may minimize the symptoms of a concussion.”

Can you have a concussion and not know it? “Concussion symptoms can range anywhere from a mild headache and confusion to double vision to problems with concentration all the way up to loss of consciousness, coma, paralysis, death. There’s really a wide spectrum, and I think one of the shifts that we’ve seen in the last few years is an increasing sensitivity to the more minor symptoms of concussion. The other thing I would emphasize and underscore is that once you have a concussion, once you have any of the symptoms of concussion, it’s very important to understand a second concussion before those first symptoms completely resolve can potentially be more catastrophic and much more injurious. It’s called the second impact syndrome. The thinking is that the brain may be in an increased state of vulnerability immediately following a concussion, making it more susceptible to developing very severe problems if a second, even small, injury is sustained. If you still have any persistent symptoms of concussion, it is extremely advisable to wait until those symptoms are completely resolved before you go back out and attempt to undertake that activity again.”

Best way to avoid concussion: “Protective gear don’t reduce the chances you’re going to have a concussion. Helmets are really good at preventing things like scalp lacerations and skull fractures. Most concussions have to do with a sudden deceleration of the brain, not really a strike against a hard object. If you’re going to ride your bike or ski or play football – any of those activities, you should absolutely wear a helmet. But understand wearing a helmet is not going to protect you from getting a concussion. It is an essential piece of safety gear, but you want to act or play or run or bike or ski as if you are not wearing a helmet to really be as safe as you possibly can.”     

Concussion: Keeping Children and Teens Safe 

American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Concussions 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.