Kids Concussion … ‘what happened?’

Kids Concussion of all things that can happen to your child, a serious fall can be one of the most unnerving for you as a parent. It can be very distressing to see your child hurt — or hear what’s happened after the event — and it’s easy to think you might have been able to prevent the incident. However, falls are a normal part of growing up. It’s obvious to most of us that a head injury will take quite some time for your child to recover from. But the thing is, sometimes your child will experience concussion — which is the word many of us hope not to hear in relation to our kids — and we don’t even realise it.

The other day our middle boy Rui fell off his scooter. He and his brother had left early to ride their scooters to swimming training and play with some friends prior to training. I arrived a little earlier than normal to collect them and sat near a mother of one of Rui’s friends. After saying hi, she said ‘Rui had a fall and hurt his knee.’ She continued,‘he is fine; just a few tears and a graze on his knee but he’s okay… a little sore.’

We continued chatting, while I made a note in the back of my mind to adjust Rui when we returned from swimming. When the boys’ training was over I wrapped a towel around Rui and mentioned I’d heard he fell off his scooter. I asked about his fall and allowed him to share what had occurred. ‘I tried to jump and landed on my knee,’ he said, showing me the graze.

‘I’ll adjust you when we get home,’ I said, and off we went with his brother and sister in tow. I noticed later that evening that Rui was a little quiet, in his own world, however I put it down to a massive day of sport. That was Friday afternoon.
Saturday morning we were doing the local fun run, the ‘Waiheke Wharf2Wharf’. After the kids had breakfast, I adjusted everyone and we made our way on foot from home to the start line. Rui said his knee was bruised and challenging to bend, but not enough to stop him from running the 5km race. As we got ready for the gun to go off at the start line with Rui’s friends gathered around, I asked again if he was okay to run, saying he didn’t have to. I’d happily walk with him to the finish line or not compete at all. ‘I’m okay,Mum,’ said Rui. The gun went off and so did Rui, not to be seen until the end. The day was hot, however there were drink stations dotted along the course. I meet the boys at the end after completing the run with Anais, our youngest. I asked Rui how he went. ‘Well,’ he answered. We stayed for a little while at the finish line, enjoying our friends, eating the fruit and rehydrating on the water offered, and eventually caught the bus home. I didn’t think anything more about Rui and his accident, until later that night.

After the race Rui was a little exhausted, not his perky self, and I put that down to ‘running all out’ — he tends to only have one switch and that’s ‘on’! At lunch he said,‘Oh yeah, Mum, I was running and had to stop and vomit.’
‘Were you pushing yourself really hard?’ I asked. He said he must have been. I made a note in my head because although he pushes himself he is not one to vomit — our eldest, yes, but not our middle one. Note taken, I started to watch a little closer.

That afternoon we were doing some more work around the house, having moved into our newly renovated place. There were pictures to hang, touch up painting to do and the man cave to organise… not that it was my job to do that one! I asked Rui to get some scissors for me. He glanced around the living room, dazed, almost wondering what I had asked him. I asked again. He ‘suddenly’ came to. My husband and I looked sideways at each other. This behaviour we couldn’t put down to ‘just being him,’ — it was subtly different. My husband whispered to me, I think he was concussed when he fell the other day. My eyebrows went up and my mouth dropped a little with a look of ‘You’re right.’

We adjusted him again later that day. With each adjustment he was able to remember a little bit more.
At dinner he started to remember the fall. I asked what he was attempting to do. He said he wanted to do a jump and land it on the scooter.

‘Did your knee take most of the impact?’ I asked.
‘No. My head, just here.’ What? I kept silent. Hold on… your head… what??
Alarm bells were now ringing for my husband and I.
I spoke calmly. ‘Tell me more.’ So he proceeded to tell us about the fall and landing on his knee and then crashing to his head. However he DIDN’T remember the fall…only landing on his knee. I started to piece two and two together — aloof, quite, distracted, ‘own world’, vomiting during a race, it all began to make sense. I raised the possibility of concussion with Rui at dinner. His siblings agreed and they all wanted to know more about concussion and the effects. So I picked up the iPad and at dinner we looked up videos to explain it more.

Rui wanted to go to swimming and to a rugby camp that was on for three days. I said no. ‘Small steps to support your body’s healing, Rui.’

‘But I’ve run a 5km race!’
‘I know, and even more reason to support your body back to physical “game on” sport.’
So as a family we followed the steps below. When we adjusted Rui again the following morning, Anam and Anais were there and we educated them further about the brain and concussion using our model spine and cranium.

I wrote the following steps in the hope that what I have written can help you as a parent navigate the tricky, delicate and often overlooked signs/symptoms of concussion. It wasn’t until day two that we pieced it all together. And, because he didn’t remember part of the fall he had (he did have a helmet on) and I didn’t see it, it was harder to piece together. But as it all began to come back it all began to make perfect sense.

I think it’s important to place an emphasis on the regular adjustments Rui received. As parents we know the importance of a balanced nerve system to promote healing and adaptation. Rui’s recovery from this concussion was rapid, alot more rapid had he not been adjusted by qualified chiropractors. Concussion is serious—it impacts the BRAIN and SPINAL CORD. Messages from the brain and the spinal cord to the body and back which coordinate activity get disturbed and distorted. The challenge is you cannot ‘see it’ so it’s easy to think everything is okay. But don’t be fooled: concussions are a silent challenge to the body and neurological development and a minimum of 6-8 weeks is required for healing.

We are coming to the end of Rui’s 6-week ‘sport alert’ as we called it. As a family we followed the steps below so we were all on board with his ability to heal and resume sports.
Please share this with your kids.

When we think of falls that impact the body we think of teenagers doing daring things, young adults being irresponsible behind the wheel of a car, recreational sport enthusiasts or professionals and at worst, a drunk driver. We often notice small kids falling over but we tend to brush off the fall as it’s part of life. And yes, while that is true, concussion is often overlooked.
Quite often when you see concussed people on TV usually, sports professionals,they look fine; they aren’t wearing a cast or going in for surgery so there is nothing visible that has you think ‘there is something going on with them.’ However, they are not functioning optimally. The messages from their brain to their body and back again are not clear; misinterpretation of what they want and what they are doing is occurring.

So let’s start here: what is a concussion?
Well, it’s caused by a knock on the head and can result in some other things going on, e.g. headache, confusion, blurry vision, stomach upset, loss of balance or just overall ‘weirdness within’ (remember Rui’s example). These are all signs that the brain has been disturbed …shaken up. It’s possible to be knocked out with or without a loss of consciousness.
So what is different about a concussion?
There are three things:

  1. The brain sits inside the skull. So when you hit the skull it is most often protected. But sometimes if you hit it hard enough, the brain hits the inside of the skull and it can get bruised. And if you hit it hard enough it can swing back and get bruised on the other side.
  2. You get injured and nobody really knows. When you twist your ankle or bang your knee you might see some bruising or swelling on the outside like what happened with Rui, a sign that the area needs ‘protecting’ as the body sets about healing. It is tangible because you can see it and touch it. But this isn’t the case with your brain.
  3. Your brain is the ‘master communicating centre’ controlling balance, mood, sleeping, thinking, digestion, elimination, respiration, development and, of course, all your senses. So when it’s injured there are lots of things that can happen e.g. classic ones like headache, back and balance challenges or blurry vision. But you may also have symptoms that you may not have noticed before e.g. being in a fog (again using Rui as an example here), finding it hard to concentrate, sadness, forgetful, worry and anxiety. You might have trouble sleeping. Or maybe you are more sensitive to light, noise, music and so forth. Also your brain holds onto lots of different files or ‘memories’ and sometimes when your brain gets rocked a bit it’s like a filing cabinet that gets knocked over and the files get spilt onto the floor — thoughts get scrambled and sometimes the memory files get lost, so you might not even remember the accident immediately, later that afternoon or in the following days.

Now knowing more about concussion, there are three more things to note:

#1 You don’t want to make it worse. And the challenge is that you cannot see a concussion. We are talking about the central nerve system here – brain and spinal cord. It’s not like the swollen ankle or knee I was talking about before. If you reinjure your brain, things get much worse. So we created a ‘Vital Moms’ protocol and six steps for you and your kids to follow for optimal healing and return to activity.
Here are our Vital Moms steps for kids concussion:

Week 1: No symptoms at rest, go to #2
Week 2: Light activity, e.g. jogging. No challenges, go to #3
Week 3: Light practice, e.g. light training. No challenges, go to #4
Week 4: ‘Sport Alert’, e.g. return to practice where no one can came in contact with you. No challenges, go to #5
Week 5: Full contact practice, and if no challenges go to #6
Week 6: Full contact playing (6-8 weeks)

Our vital moms protocol says… ‘If there are any challenges at any of the levels you MUST drop back to the level prior.’

#2 Guaging your child. Tissue healing takes on average 6-8 weeks regardless of the tissue; this is the average length of time. Hence the Vital Moms six steps above. Eighty to ninety per cent of people are back doing what they were doing within 6 weeks. The tricky part is how to tell at the beginning the extent of the challenge they undertook. My suggestion would be to assume the worst and go through the six steps diligently. After all, we are talking about the brain and neurological development of your child, so be prepared for frustration to rear it’s ugly head in your child. This is why we got everyone on board at dinner that night to support: Mum, Dad, sister and brother.

#3 Communicate and notice. It is important to become the observer of your child and ‘note’ the changes in their behaviour. This is a key and will help to explain some changes they may ‘suddenly’ appear to be displaying. Remember the sidewards stare my husband and I gave each other? If you sense your child has had a concussion here is what I suggest you do immediately:

Find a chiropractor in your area and get them adjusted immediately. Follow that up with regular weekly chiropractic adjustments as determined by your chiropractor.

Follow the Vital Moms protocol and the six steps outlined above.

Acknowledge that the brain is important in your child’s overarching function and expression of health, and do all you can to support this, including providing good organic food, rest as required and plenty of water.

Rui’s doing well now, and our kids have all learned the steps in recovering from concussion. Importantly, it’s been an opportunity for them to learn even more about the incredible detail of our bodies and why it’s important to have a system that can communicate clearly with itself and so heal itself. Supported correctly, the power that made the body can indeed heal the body.

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