(Australian Associated Press)
Children or teens who have suffered a serious knock to the head playing footy or soccer must rest for 48 to 72 hours after the injury, under the first international guidelines for the management of childhood sport-related concussion (SRC).
Also under the new guidelines, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, caregivers should expect a child to take four weeks to recover and prioritise their return to school over organised sport.
Around four million children are estimated to present annually to emergency departments worldwide with concussion.
This suggests that approximately 33 million children worldwide sustain a concussion annually.
Up until now the management of child-specific SRC has been vague.
The new guidelines are a result of a review of published studies on SRC led by researchers at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne.
“For the first time they have collated the evidence to help clinicians, administrators or individuals who work with children to support and provide guidance with confidence that what they’re recommending is supported by the current understanding of the management of children with sport-related concussion,” said MCRI researcher Dr Michael Takagi.
There were a number of key factors that were already known, but also several new findings, including the time it takes for children to fully recover.
“After this systemic review we found that the majority of children will recover within four weeks but a significant minority will continue to experience symptoms beyond that four week period,” said Dr Takagi.
The typical recovery time for an adult is two weeks.
Part of the reason it takes longer for a child to recover is because the brain is still developing.
“You’ve got a lot of functional changes occurring, like puberty. All of these things that are occurring throughout adolescence and childhood will culminate to make children a bit more vulnerable to a concussion and require a bit more recovery time,” Dr Takagi said.
Prioritising a child’s return to school is also a key guideline.
“We want to make sure kids are returning to learning before they return to organised sport,” Dr Takagi said
“Sport is incredibly important but it’s more important to get back to academic achievement. Attending school is also less likely to perpetuate an additional injury if they are still symptomatic,” he added.
That said, engaging in light physical activity after the initial 48-72 following the injury is important.
“There’s good evidence that getting back to physical activity and normal activities, like going to school, improves recovery as opposed to sitting in your house doing nothing,” said Dr Takagi.
If a parent suspects your child has concussion they are advised to have them assessed medically.
* Sensitivity to noise and light