As I’ve written in previous posts, concussions are among the most common injuries to children. In fact, the number of emergency room visits for sports related head injuries in young people has increased by 62 percent in the last decade.
So how can parents help their children recover after a concussion?
First understand that concussions present a serious risk to children because their brains are still developing. A blow to the head can injure the function of the brain. Healing that injury requires the child to take a break – and that means an all-inclusive vacation from physical and mental activity. In other words: No thinking.
Studies have confirmed that increased cognitive activity actually slows recovery time. In a recent study of 335 patients (8 to 23 years old), those who engaged in the most cognitive activity took the longest to recover from their symptoms. In fact, their recovery averaged 100 days. Those who had the most limited cognitive activity recovered in 20 to 50 days.
As a rule, most children improve within a matter of weeks or a month. But one third of concussed children have symptoms lasting a month or more. There is no way to predict how fast your child will recover. But it will take longer if your child engages in cognitive activity.
What to do and what not to do:
Computers, hand-held devices, TV, movies and all screen time should be considered off limits. Why? They require concentration and lots of thinking. So do books and homework, so they’re off limits as well. And unfortunately for teens, no loud music.
There are ways to beat the boredom – and it doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. When children rest after a brain injury, in a quiet room with the curtains closed, they usually spend a lot of time sleeping. Encouraging rest is one way to improve the odds of them getting some extra zzzzs.
Music is okay too, as long as the volume is low. Simple board games are fine and so are card games. Maybe even a simple game of darts as long as movement is limited, since balance may be an issue. Talking with each other is a great way to pass some time, and also good opportunities for parents to spend time with their children they might not otherwise have.
So get creative. Think simple, slow and soft. It might be a good time for a child to sit down and sort through a cluttered closet or drawer. Consider activities that don’t require a lot of thought or complicated, fast motions. This way, you can beat the clock and the boredom, and help your child recover to the fullest – and faster.