"My child doesn't have a brain injury, he only has a concussion"

The term concussion is frequently used to describe head injuries in children but there is a lack of agreement about how this term is defined. As a result, different types and severities of head injuries can be labeled as a concussion, suggesting that the injury is mild and doesn't involve damage to the brain. Parents may say, "My child doesn't have a brain injury, he only has a concussion", with little knowledge about what the term actually means and. There can be an assumption that the injury isn't serious and that normal activities can quickly resume. Many children have significant and long-lasting effects from a so-called concussion. Returning to school, or returning to team sports, before the child is physically or mentally ready puts the child at greater risk of another head injury.

Funded by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, this prospective study of 434 children and youth with head injury admitted to hospital looked at the relationships between a concussion diagnosis, discharge from hospital and return to school. Children and adolescents in our study who had a diagnosis of concussion spent fewer days in hospital and returned to school sooner than children whose head injury was of similar severity but who did not have the label concussion. The severity of their head injury or the presence of other injuries like broken bones did not make a difference to their time of discharge. The fact that their injury was called a concussion seemed to suggest that it was a less serious injury, which resulted in a different course of action both in hospital and after discharge.

To access the journal article with the results of the study, click here.