Post-Concussion Syndrome - Brain Injury Awareness Week

Post Concussion Syndrome - AFL WCE

Curiosity can spark some really interesting conversations, none quite as fun as the ones we have with our kids. For this month’s Brain Injury Awareness Week, here’s an example of how a conversation with your football obsessed superstar might play out…

KID: “But…do I haaaave to wear my helmet?”

PARENT: “Yes, you do my love, and I am going to teach you why…”

“…Your amazing brain is by far the most precious squishy mush on the planet. You might be thinking ‘What? Mush? No way! My brain is made of tougher stuff, it’s more bouncy – like rubber.’ But it’s not, it’s really soft. Did you know even some scientists, that don’t work with live brains, can be unsure about what brains feel like, because the brains they get to work on when they are learning are made hard with chemicals and feel more like rubber than real squashy stuff.

But really all our brains are soft and mushy, a bit like your soft putty, or mince when we’re making burgers (or, for the vegans, regular tofu – somewhere between silken and firm). We can make something a bit like a brain here in our kitchen – if we mould that mince/tofu into the shape of your brain, then we will pop it into a plastic container (your skull), then we fill the rest of the container with water (the fluid around the brain), now we screw the lid on. See your brain floating there in the water? Do you think it would change shape if it got bumped on the side of the container?

What can happen when we bump our heads? Or when something hits our head?

Fast movement and impact can cause the brain to change shape, it can stretch and damage tiny brain cells.

The tricky part for doctors and scientists is that after the knock, the real damage to the brain is not easily seen with the clever brain scans that they have. 

Sometimes the damage is better understood by how the person with the hurt brain is feeling, and what they are doing.

What do we feel? Do remember ever feeling something after you bumped your head?”

KID: “Oh yeah…that time when we were on the trampoline and I hit my head on Jacob’s head really hard and we were both fuzzy and dizzy for ages, Jacob even spewed up!”

PARENT: “I remember that too, what else did you feel that day?”

KID: “I think I had a really bad headache, I had an egg on my head and a big bruise, I could hear this buzzing in my ears, and I definitely didn’t really remember what else happened that day…it was weird”

PARENT: “All those things mean you had a concussion. Do you remember what we did?” 

KID: “Did I just get icecream and go to bed?”

PARENT: “There were some other things we did first, we followed the 5 ‘R’s’ of concussion:

Recognise the injury: we knew it wasn’t just a little bump, you were really hurt.

Remove from play: you stopped jumping on the trampoline, you came inside and sat down quietly.

Referral to a doctor: We took you straight to Dr Nick and he checked you out and told us what to do that day, and what to look for over the next two weeks. He told us to get the Head Check app: to use, and come back and see him in a week.

Rest: You took it easy over the next couple of weeks, no jumping on the trampoline and you didn’t play football that weekend. We got a book, do you remember, ‘Things to Make and Do’ and you made the awesome space mobile that’s hanging in your room.

Return to play: You had been fine for over a week, Dr Nick said you looked good, you went back to football training and were ok after, so slowly you went back to your weekend games and jumping on the trampoline. But we kept a close eye on you.

What would we have done if those things you were feeling didn’t go away?”

KID: “I dunno, make me stay in bed all day and not go to school?”

PARENT: “If you were still feeling not right, if months had gone by and you were still: getting headaches; if the buzzing in your ears hadn’t gone away; if you were feeling tired during the day; if you told us you felt fuzzy and foggy in the head and that school was harder; or you were still feeling a little bit sick in the tummy sometimes - we’d be worried you might have more than just a concussion, we’d definitely want to get you checked for Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)

We might take you to a fun clinic where they know heaps about brains, where they work with people 1:1 when their brains are not working as well as they could, or when their brains have been hurt and not recovered yet. At the clinic they would, just by putting a hat on your head, be able to look at your brain in cool ways and find out more about what may have happened when you hit your head soo hard. 

After all that the brainy people would put together a program, some stuff we would do at home, some stuff we would do with them at the brain place. The brain place stuff would be super-space-science-cool, you could help your brain get back to working normally by watching movies and training it to do what it did before you bumped it.

How does all that sound?”

KID: “Super-space-science-brain-smart!”

PARENT: “So, do you have to wear your helmet?”

KID: “Yep, I got some seriously boss (awesome) brain putty to protect up here!”

About the author - Emily Goss, OT. Senior Clinician, The Perth Brain Centre.

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