studies parents might not know all they should about concussions

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as many as 175,000 children receive treatment in U.S. emergency rooms for sports-related concussions every year. While figures like these suggest that most parents have a good understanding of concussion-related symptoms and treatment, two studies suggest that there is actually significant room for improvement.

Indeed these two studies, presented at the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this month, suggest that this lack of understanding on the part of parents could even serve to hinder the treatment and recovery of their children from sports-related concussions.

In the first study, performed by researchers at a Toronto-based children’s hospital, 511 parents of children between the ages of 5-18 who had suffered a head injury at some point were surveyed about their general knowledge of this condition.

The results revealed the following:

  • 92 percent of parents indicated that they were aware that their child should stop playing sports and see a doctor in the event of a suspected concussion.
  • Roughly 50 percent of parents knew that difficulty concentrating and headaches were symptoms of concussions.
  • 26 percent of parents were aware of the existence of guidelines outlining the conditions under which their child could resume sports and school after suffering a concussion.

According to the study authors, while it was encouraging that the majority of parents knew they had to take their children to doctors if a concussion was suspected, more work needs to be done to 1) educate them about concussion-related symptoms and 2) ensure they make follow-up appointments whereby the proper return to work/school guidelines are outlined.

In the second study, performed by researchers at a Los Angeles-based children’s hospital, two groups of parents — one made up of 214 parents whose children were being evaluated for a head injury and one made up of 250 parents with kids in private school — were surveyed about concussion awareness.

The results revealed the following:

  • 25 percent of people in group 1 and 29 percent of people in group 2 misidentified reduced breathing as a symptom of concussion.
  • 75 percent of people in group 1 and 79 percent of people in group 2 misidentified difficulty speaking as a symptom of concussion.
  • 70 percent of people in group 1 and 49 percent of people in group 2 mistakenly believed MRI and CT scans could diagnose concussions.

“Our study highlights the fact that many parents are still in need of education regarding concussion identification and post-injury evaluation. Even those highly educated parents were prone to misconceptions,” said one of the study authors. “False perceptions such as the ones pinpointed by our study may impact when medical care is sought after concussion and lead to less than optimal home care.”

While this study does indeed highlight a need for greater awareness or education on the part of parents regarding concussions, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that physicians are the first line of defense in helping treat and prevent further damage from a concussion.

However, when they fail to diagnose a concussion in the first place, it can cause lasting damage or worse to their young patients. When this happens, they must be held accountable.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Many parents need to educate themselves about concussions,” Oct. 24, 2014

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