Thoughtful parenting: Concussions — Why all the fuss now? |

Thoughtful parenting: Concussions — Why all the fuss now?

Rosanne Iverson/For the Steamboat Today

Our Steamboat Springs kids are active kids, from mountain biking to skiing, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, football, ski jumping and more. When it comes to keeping our kids safe, we always start with prevention. A sport-specific helmet that fits well and is properly adjusted for the child is an important tool to prevent head injury. However, when a head injury does occur, it’s important for parents to take notice and take action.

What causes a concussion?

A concussion is caused by an acceleration-deceleration injury. Imagine riding your bike at high speed when suddenly you come to a stop due to an impact, like hitting a tree stump on the trail. After the stop, be it a head hit or not, there is a movement in the opposite direction. You can try it out by throwing an object on the ground and seeing how it will stop, then rebound. What happens in the brain with this acceleration-deceleration, is the brain hits the skull once upon the first stop after acceleration and then again with the deceleration in the opposing direction.

What happens in the brain with a concussion?

The brain is made of long, thin nerve cells. These cells are covered with a white sheath that helps the nerve cells conduct their messages to other cells. The sheath is sheared off with the injury, leaving the cell with slow, poor ability to conduct a message. The patient is left with slow thinking, confusion, headache, dizziness, difficulty performing complex tasks, such as academics or athletics, and more.

How do we treat an injury like this?

By now, most parents know they need to get a baseline ImPact test for children and a repeat test if a child injures his or her head. This is a test used to measure speed, accuracy and eye-hand coordination. It tells part of the picture of how well the brain is working, but not the whole picture. We recommend continued treatment, such as:

• Brain rest

• Avoidance of screen time

• Step back into academics, then athletics

• Repeat evaluations with the doctor and ImPact testing

• Clearance back to competition with a qualified physician

It is hard to say how long it will take a specific brain to recover, though we do know 40 percent are better in one week, 60 percent in two weeks, 80 percent in three weeks and 90 percent at four weeks. If symptoms persist beyond the first week or two despite modifications in brain work, then specific physical therapy for the brain may be needed. Your physician can help you and your athlete navigate through the recovery phase.

Remember, your child may not have any symptoms following the event, yet still have a concussion. Keeping your Steamboat athlete healthy through awareness and proper equipment is what we can do as parents. Talking about safety and showing through example goes a long way. If you suspect a possible head injury, playing it safe with an evaluation by a physician will help your child achieve his or her maximum potential in life. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Rosanne Iversen, M.D., has been a family physician in Steamboat Springs since 1992. She is a mother of two very active boys, ages 16 and 18. She sees patients out of her office, Steamboat Family Medicine. To learn more about Iversen, visit her web page at

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