Past research has indicated that only approximately half of all childhood concussions are reported to doctors. The reason for this low reporting rate lies in a variety of factors, including parents being unwilling or unable to afford the medical care associated with a concussion. In those instances, the parent might opt to have the child “sleep it off.”
Another common reason childhood concussions go untreated is that schools and sports programs often fail to notify the parent that an incident took place. In some situations, the head injury is only acknowledged by the school, day care, or sports league after the parents reports a sudden change in behavior by the child, or after the head injury is diagnosed by a doctor or emergency personnel.
Recognizing problems in the reporting chain, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued new guidelines for dealing with childhood concussions. These new guidelines place an emphasis on communication and documentation. From the moment the head injury takes place, parents and caretakers should be monitoring the child for both physical and behavioral symptoms.
Though physical symptoms, including localized swelling or indentation and vomiting, are usually obvious to laymen, behavioral changes may be more difficult to track. A child who has suffered a concussion may be more irritable or tired. Caregivers should avoid the temptation to assume that changes in behavior are strictly based on discomfort. Head injuries can cause swelling in the brain, which can manifest as abnormal behavior.
If your child attends school or a sports program, the risk of a head injury always exists. Knowing that CDC is attempting to address problems in how such places treat concussions and other forms of Traumatic Brain Injury is reassuring. But until schools and programs implement these changes, the chance of a bad outcome remains too high. If your child has already suffered a head injury or other injury at school or sport, please consider consulting with an experienced attorney.