baseball player at bat with helmet

With spring sports around the corner, now is the time to make yourself aware of concussion and how to keep your child safe. While preventing traumatic brain injuries (TBI) is ideal, children do get hurt.

Imagine that you’ve just left the emergency room after your child has been treated for a concussion. Like most parents, you find that getting back to the normal routine of home gives you time to reflect on your visit and your child’s recovery process.

Most children who hurt their heads get well and have no long-term problems. But every child is different and so can be the recovery from head injury. As a parent, you know your child best. Follow up with your pediatrician if you sense things are different after a traumatic brain injury.

Answers to questions we commonly hear from parents

Question: What did the doctors and nurses really say? Didn’t they say it was a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Or was it a concussion?
Answer: A concussion, or mild head injury, is a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Question: My child did not lose consciousness or stay in the hospital. Does this mean she did not experience a TBI?
: Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness and some children experience problems stemming from their TBI that may not be noticed right away. After leaving the hospital, symptoms may last for days, weeks, or much longer.

Question: He looks fine but the doctor said that the effects of a concussion could look different?
Most brain injuries are not visible. The symptoms your child experiences may not be obvious or immediately linked to the injury.

Understanding how young brains heal

Children often take longer than adults to recover from similar traumatic brain injuries. Parents should take extra steps to protect their children from a second brain injury. Having a concussion puts children and adults at greater risk of having another. Recovery may also take longer after a second concussion.

Project Brain, a collaboration of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and the state of Tennessee, is available to follow up with you after your child leaves the hospital and transitions back home and to school. Our Signs and Symptoms handout helps parents spot problems they may see as their child recovers from a traumatic brain injury.

With your permission, Project BRAIN will also tell your child’s school about the injury and provide them with the same information parents receive at the hospital. School is where most children get rehabilitation after a brain injury.

Websites for additional information include:

Teri Powell is the Brain Injury Transition Liaison with Project BRAIN, an affiliate of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.


Boy and Girl Playing With Bubbles

Play is fun. It’s spontaneous, the hallmark activity of childhood.

Play is not only a universal, naturally occurring behavior, it is also an essential part of healthy development. It drives development of thinking, social skills, physical growth and emotional understanding. Over and over, research has shown benefits of play that reach beyond having a good time.

When children play, they sharpen skills, strengthen relationships and make discoveries. They work out confusing ideas and frustrating or fearful situations. Infants and young children need play to help learn about the world around them. School-age children and, yes, adolescents, need play to provide a “safe space” to experiment with new ideas, learn give and take and build confidence.

Adults may question whether play is necessary or even appropriate for children in traumatic or stressful situations. Playfulness helps humans of all ages cope with past and present concerns, as well as prepare for future events. It is precisely during times of stress and trauma that children most often turn to play as a safe “place” to release and contain feelings of fear, distress or sadness. In the health care setting, children and teens need play more than ever to process confusing and often uncomfortable things that are happening.

The child life specialist is a key member of your health care team with the unique ability to educate parents, caregivers and other health care professionals about the role of play. In fact, education about and advocacy for play are among the core competencies of these professionals. They recognize obstacles to play and promote a healing environment for children and families.

Some specific tips for encouraging play in a health care setting:

  • Allow children to manipulate any medical equipment possible, even if the play does not involve using the tool “correctly.”
  • Read books about other children and popular characters visiting the doctor, dentist or hospital.
  • Encourage play that allows a child or teen to express feelings. For instance, doll houses, doctor kits, action figures, toy dinosaurs, music, painting or drawing are options for many age groups.
  • Even if the adult is setting up the play, offer the child or teen as much control over how the play happens as possible.
  • Visit the playrooms and special activities provided within the hospital setting.
See also: Cartoons to Help Your Children Prepare for a Hospital Visit and When to Request a Child Life Specialist

Katherine Bennett is a certified child life specialist. When not working in the hospital, she enjoys reading, keeping house, searching through antique stores and playing with her children. 


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