Mild Closed Head Injury: Your Child and Concussion in Sports


ballMild closed head injury in sports is a major problem today, particularly among young people.  In many high impact sports’ injuries, the symptoms of mild concussion are often not recognized. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are classified into three categories:  mild, moderate and severe.  The categorization is based on the Glasgow Coma Scale (CGS) which indicates state of consciousness, eyes opening and motor responses. Mild closed head injuries are also referred to as concussive injuries.  They may occur on the playground or falling off a bicycle as well as during sports.

In a mild brain injury, an individual may lose consciousness for only a moment or not at all.  Aggressive body contact in some sports and the practice of using the head to hit the ball in some sports is contributing to this growing problem, in girls as well as boys.  Statistics from a 2005 NCAA injury report on comparisons of game injuries by gender revealed that in soccer females had a higher concussion than males.  The following year in a 2006 NCAA Report of Concussion Rates, many traditional high school sports such as football, lacrosse and ice hockey were at the top of the list for potential concussion.

Some of the symptoms of a mild concussive injury include dizziness, headache, nausea, blurred vision and confusion.  Coaches may observe the more obvious symptoms such as loss of consciousness, difficulty with balance, disorientation or memory loss.  Often, however, the symptoms of a mild concussive injury are simply not recognized.  Your child or teenager may not report symptoms simply because he or she does not recognize the seriousness of the injury.  In sports, children may be reluctant to report symptoms because they understandably want to remain in the game.  With internal symptoms that are not observable, such as headache, a coach may unknowingly send the child back into the game the concussion.

Mild head injuries and their symptoms should never be ignored.  Coaches, athletes, children, parents and physicians should be able to recognize the symptoms of mild concussion.  MIAA and NCAA rules now prohibit athletes from returning to a game following a mild concussion.  Preventative measures should be taken, whenever possible, to ensure the well-being of your children in sports.  Helmets should be worn to protect your child’s head from injury.

Quantitative EEG or QEEG is a method of recording brain wave activity to determine cortical slowing in various areas of the brain.  A QEEG involves the placement of 23 electrodes on the scalp and enables recordings of brain wave activity with eyes open or closed and during a variety of simple cognitive tasks.  The QEEG may help to determine the source of a disruption in brain function resulting from a mild head injury.  Once the QEEG is completed, the raw data is sent to an expert and normed against international databases.  Recommendations are then made for follow up neurofeedback treatment.

QEEG is also used at a number of VA hospitals to help identify the presence of a traumatic brain injury, its magnitude and severity.  This technique has been endorsed by the American Neuropsychiatric Association and is routinely used at such institutions at the New York University School of Medicine Brain Research Lab.  Astronauts and NASA pilots have also used neurofeedback for stress reduction.

Pedro Garcia posing for sports photos in a studio