Emergency room visits for concussions in kids are up

Posted at 5:16 AM, Apr 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-16 16:11:51-04

The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that emergency room visits for concussions in kids ages 8 to 13 years old have doubled, and concussions have risen 200 percent among teens ages 14 to 19 in the last decade.

But experts say that’s a good thing. The rise in visits is likely due to parents and coaches being more careful about treating head injuries.

Corpus Christi Medical Center Emergency Director Dr. Juan Ramirez says while awareness has increased, many parents, coaches and players still don’t understand how serious concussions can be.

“Every head injury is a potential life-threatening event.  When the event happens, especially when the kid or adult is playing a sport, the patient should be removed from the immediate activity and be observed on how he does. Most of the time, patients recover, however, in more serious injuries the patient might have a head bleed, others might have a fracture of the skull, or other injuries that will require medical attention,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Emergency Director Dr. Juan Ramirez.

A concussion means the brain has been jostled, and a concussion doesn’t show up on an imaging scan unless there is bruising or bleeding.

“One of the most common signs and symptoms the patient has when a concussion happens is a brief loss of consciousness. Most of the cases have a decrease in the level of memory. So they have some amnesia, and they can barely recollect on what happened at the moment of the injury. Also, the patient can have nausea, vomiting, and sometimes can have seizures as well,” said Dr. Ramirez.

More than 100,000 U.S. children visit the emergency room for a concussion each year.

But it is that follow-up that is important because the job of the ER doctors is essentially limited to making sure there is no emergency such as bleeding on the brain or other injury that requires immediate attention.

“I recommend every patient who has a concussion to come in. Because even though the initial symptoms like amnesia and confusion can look like the patient is getting better, sometimes they can bleed inside the brain. So, I would recommend whenever we have a concussion, come back and get your care with your doctor, and then we will do the proper exams that we need to make sure you are safe to go home,” said Dr. Ramirez.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports show that the amount of reported concussions has doubled in the last 10 years.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that emergency room visits for concussions in kids ages 8 to 13 years old has doubled, and concussions have risen 200 percent among teens ages 14 to 19 in the last decade.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination.

Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head. Violently shaking the head and upper body also can cause concussions.

Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not. It’s possible to have a concussion and not realize it.

Concussions are particularly common if you play a contact sport, such as football. Most people usually recover fully after a concussion.


The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not show up immediately. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.

Common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, loss of memory (amnesia) and confusion. The amnesia usually involves forgetting the event that caused the concussion.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include: 

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Appearing dazed
  • Fatigue

You may have some symptoms of concussions immediately. Others may be delayed for hours or days after injury, such as:

  • Concentration and memory complaints
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell

See a doctor within 1 to 2 days if:

You or your child experiences a head injury, even if emergency care isn’t required. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call your child’s doctor for anything more than a light bump on your child’s head.

If your child doesn’t have signs of a serious head injury, remains alert, moves normally and responds to you, the injury is probably mild and usually doesn’t need further testing.

In this case, if your child wants to nap, it’s OK to let him or her sleep. If worrisome signs develop later, seek emergency care.

Seek emergency care for an adult or child who experiences a head injury and symptoms such as:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • A loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds
  • A headache that gets worse over time
  • Changes in his or her behavior, such as irritability
  • Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognizing people or places
  • Slurred speech or other changes in speech

Other symptoms include:

Vision or eye disturbances, such as pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes
Lasting or recurrent dizziness
Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
Symptoms that worsen over time
Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children, especially in infants under 12 months of age


Some tips that may help you to prevent or minimize your risk of head injury include:

Wearing protective gear during sports and other recreational activities. Make sure the equipment fits properly, is well-maintained and worn correctly. Follow the rules of the game and practice good sportsmanship.

When bicycling, motorcycling, snowboarding or engaging in any recreational activity that may result in head injury, wear protective headgear.

Buckling your seat belt. Wearing a seat belt may prevent serious injury, including head injury, during a traffic accident.

Making your home safe. Keep your home well-lit and your floors free of anything that might cause you to trip and fall. Falls around the home are a leading cause of head injury.

Protecting your children: 

To help lessen the risk of head injuries to your children, block off stairways and install window guards.

Exercise regularly:
Exercise regularly to strengthen your leg muscles and improve your balance.
Educating others about concussions. Educating coaches, athletes, parents and others about concussions can help spread awareness.
Coaches and parents can also help encourage good sportsmanship.


There’s no specific cure for concussion. Rest and restricting activities allow the brain to recover. This means one should temporarily reduce sports, video games, TV, or too much socializing. Medications for headache pain, or odansetron or other anti-nausea medications can be used for symptoms.

It is best to go to the closest Hospital emergency room if you are having symptoms, especially when they are life-threatening otherwise see your family doctor.  It is best to get checked out by a physician to be on the safe side.