Parents can ‘inadvertently complicate’ their child’s concussion recovery: study

eye doctor with patient

Photo: UCLA

Los Angeles – Many parents may be following outdated recommendations when caring for a child who has a concussion, potentially making the symptoms worse, according to the results of a survey commissioned by UCLA Health.

Of the 569 parents polled across the country, 84 percent supported restricting children with concussion symptoms from all physical activity, 77 percent would likely wake a child throughout the night to check on him or her, and 64 percent would take away a child’s electronic devices – including cell phones – if symptoms lasted more than one week.

Each response contradicts the best practices outlined by health professionals, Dr. Christopher Giza, a pediatric neurologist and director of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program, said in a Sept. 5 press release.

“In the past, there was often a tendency to downplay the significance of concussions. Now some parents go too far the other direction and, despite their best intentions, they can inadvertently complicate their child’s recovery,” Giza said. “Many parents believed they might overlook swelling of the brain if they allowed their child to go to sleep with a concussion. We certainly want a doctor to evaluate the child immediately after injury, but if you’re still waking a child up throughout the night more than a week later, you’re doing more harm than good.”

He added that taking away all electronic devices from a child with a concussion could lead to social isolation, which “brings up a whole new set of issues,” such as anxiety and depression.

Giza cited a recent study in which two groups of concussed children followed different treatment methods. He said the group assigned five days of isolation and rest reported more symptoms than the group assigned to ease back to a normal schedule after a few days of rest.

“The idea is to give them that initial rest and protect them from contact risk, but then start easing them back into intellectual, physical and social activity,” Giza said. “Those things are all important in the healing process and shouldn't be overlooked.”

UCLA Health officials recommend taking a child to see a specialist if concussion symptoms do not subside within two to three weeks.

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