Concussion treatment and evaluation

Concussion. When your child’s brain has been injured.

A concussion is a brain injury (mild traumatic brain injury). It is caused by a direct blow to the head,  face, or body, usually while engaged in a sports activity or a bad fall from a bike or skateboard. Any blow to the head can result in a concussion, a common but often misunderstood injury in kids. 

If you’re not sure how serious it is, let us take a look.

Most kids with a concussion recovery completely with appropriate treatment, but all concussions are potentially serious and may result in long-term complications. If not managed promptly and properly, the complications can range from difficulty with school to mood swings, or even death. Prompt, expert medical evaluation and treatment of every concussion and its symptoms is very important.

Concussion evaluation

If an athlete is injured with a concussion, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Children’s will perform a complete review of his or her injuries and symptoms, along with a thorough physical exam. 

During each follow-up visit, we will evaluate the treatment plan and offer help in managing symptoms, functioning at school, maintaining regular sleep patterns, and driving safely. We also will provide a timeline for returning to regular activities and sports. 

Some kids also may need an MRI or to be seen by a specialist. Our pediatric sports medicine experts will provide referrals as needed.

Baseline concussion tests

Several national medical organizations suggest that computerized concussion testing can be helpful in managing sports-related concussions. Therefore, we suggest a baseline concussion test for all young athletes, especially those involved in contact sports. Children's Hospital uses ImPACTTM and Axon Sports computerized evaluation tests, which are commonly used in organized high school sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Football League.

These tests measure:

  • Verbal and visual memory. 
  • Attention span. 
  • Brain processing speed. 
  • Reaction time.

Also, as part of the baseline test, your child’s balance will be assessed using the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) to evaluate postural stability and balance pre-injury.

Baseline concussion tests are given to healthy athletes before a concussion happens. After an injury, another test is done. The results then can be compared to measure the athlete's brain function before and after the injury. This helps sports medicine specialists improve concussion care and make return-to-play decisions.

Scheduling a baseline test and follow-up visits

Baseline tests should be repeated every one to two years to account for your child's growth and development. Contact us with any questions about concussion testing and arrange for a baseline test for your young athlete or other members of his/her team or league.

Important Concussion Legislation: It’s Wisconsin law

Wisconsin's concussion law requires that all youth athletic organizations, from recreational leagues to clubs or school sports, educate their coaches, athletes and parents about concussions. Everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion, because education is a key part of ensuring kids get the best care. 

Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction developed concussion fact sheets for athletes and parents. The legislation prevents kids from participating in an activity until they and their parents or guardians, have returned a signed agreement sheet indicating they have reviewed the concussion and head injury informational materials. 

If a young athlete shows signs or symptoms of a concussion, the law requires their immediate removal from an athletic activity. The athlete may not participate again until he or she is evaluated by a health care provider and receives written clearance from that provider to return to the activity. An athlete should never return to activity while still symptomatic or on the same day as a concussion.

More absent-minded than usual
Forgetting where his or her shoes are is normal. Forgetting homework or other details, however, is a sign of possible concussion. Read more>>

Forgetting a play or going to the wrong position.
Or doing worse in school or getting headaches. Many things can tell you something is not quite right with your child after a head injury. Read more>>

Behaving strangely in a “different” way
Sudden mood swings, trouble sleeping, nervous behavior or sadness for no reason can tell you to seek medical help for your child. Read more>>