Doctor: Head injuries can be fatal

Concussions can lurk without blatant signs



CUMMING, Ga. — Michele Martin is a big proponent of helmets. But her son, Will Martin, 9, failed to remember his mother’s advice when he got on a dirt bike Sept. 25, 2011, while playing with a friend who lives in their subdivision in Cumming.

Will ran into a chain-link fence at the neighbor’s property. He suffered a laceration to the left side of his head, above the forehead. Underneath the cut, something else was going on with Will that was not visible. He was suffering from a concussion.

He was first taken to Children’s Healthcare at the Avenue Forsyth, where he received 13 stitches. As the week progressed, so did his strange behavior.

“He was very irritable, not himself at all,” Michele Martin said. “This is a happy, smiling child who is friends with everyone.

“He had memory loss, confusion. When he went to tell me something, he would say, ‘it did not come out right.’ Most of all, he was very irritable and difficult to please,” she said.

Will never complained of a headache or had vomiting. But he did have dark circles under his eye and he was not making eye contact.

“One thing that parents really need to know is that the child that has the concussion doesn’t realize anything is wrong with them,” Michele said. “They don’t necessarily feel any different. He did not realize all these symptoms he was exhibiting.”

Michele called CHoA’s nurse hotline and was told to take Will to a pediatrician. Will then failed the neurological exam. He was then taken to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta concussion program, where he failed another neurological exam.

March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, said Dr. Andrew Reisner, medical director at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta concussion program.

Reisner, who treated Will, said 1,000 concussion cases are treated each year throughout their emergency departments and urgent care centers.

Reisner said that signs of a concussion can vary.

“Most often, but not always, there is loss of consciousness,” Reisner said. “Sometimes, the child is simply dazed for a short period of time. Memory loss, inability to concentrate, sleep, eat and behavioral changes for variable period of time are also common.”

Children who have had a prior concussion, have attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity are at a greater risk than others.

“Red flags” to suggest the child has a concussion or is worsening include progressive headache, severe vomiting, loss of consciousness, seizure and clear fluid drainage from nose or ear, Reisner said.

Most importantly, Reisner said, if a child is suspected of having suffered a concussion during play, remove them from the game.

“If a child is even suspected of having a concussion, removal from play is essential,” Reisner said. “It is crucial that a child who has experienced a concussion does not return to sports too soon.

“A child who has suffered a concussion must have both physical and cognitive (mental) rest, under the supervision of a qualified individual,” he said. “Multiple successive concussions can be life-threatening, and it is thus important to avoid multiple head injuries.”

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