Concussion – A Parent’s Perspective on not being prepared!

Having two kids in sports that have high rates of concussions (hockey and cheer) and being a physiotherapist that works with children, you would think that I would have been better prepared when the inevitable happened and my hockey player had a concussion.  But I wasn’t prepared at all!

Concussion symptoms can be really delayed

The first thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the phone call from parent who also had a child on the same team.  He was calling to tell me that he had been worried about my son since he hit his head and thought that we should get it checked out.  Innocent enough right?  Except that I had NO IDEA that he had hit his head!

When I finally got the story – my son had been running into the change room after ball hockey warm-ups (so he wasn’t yet in gear or helmet) – slipped on some water and fell straight backwards and hit his head on the concrete.  He played the semi final game and later that day he played the championship game.  He didn’t tell me he hit his head because he was fine.

Almost a full week later he told me that he was okay on the ice (which was just to work on his skating) but had a headache doing the fitness/dryland after – especially jumping and running.  I wasn’t concerned – a little dehydrated I assumed, but it happened again 2 days later, along with dizziness and the phone call, and I realized that I was seeing a bit of a glazed look in his eyes.  Somehow no one else saw this – but when he was tired I could see it.

Doctors may be under informed about concussions in kids

So I did what every parent would do and took him to our family doctor whom I have immense respect for and was NOT prepared for the doctor to tell me that it wasn’t a concussion.  Maybe cluster headaches, maybe a little dehydration.

After another day or so, with more complaints and that glazed look, I brought my son to a physiotherapist who works at Butterfly (which is what I should have done first),  she has specialty training in concussion management and works with athletes.  But despite my story and my determination I was somehow NOT prepared for her to tell me that he HAD a concussion! (I know…I’m contradicting myself…but I just knew something was off…)

Concussion Assessments are Telling

I was also NOT prepared for him to lose his balance when on one foot. I was NOT prepared to see him unable to focus on an object while moving his head.  I was NOT prepared for him to not recall words less than an hour after he was asked to remember them.  How did I miss this?  I didn’t know what to look for.  Watching the assessment it was pretty clear.  He had a concussion.

Concussions cause worry

I was so worried.  While I am always a bit of worrier, I was really worried.  My biggest worry was that if this didn’t resolve that someday I might have to tell my kid that he could no longer do the one thing that he loved most in the world.  Hockey.  And maybe other sports as well.  I was not prepared for that.  Luckily I didn’t have to.

And I was also worried about what the heck I going to tell his coach??  I was not prepared for how much anxiety I had around this.  My son had just made a new team that had won the OMHAs 2 years straight.  The coach didn’t know that we were a dedicated family.  That his new rookie lived and breathed hockey.  That he sometimes played with puffers on the bench because he refused to miss a game.  That once he threw up at night and played amazing the next morning.

But guess what?  The coach understood.  Of course he did.  The skating coach understood.  Of course he did.  Everyone just wanted what was best for him.  To heal quickly and properly and return when he was ready.

I have to admit – we were really lucky.  The timing coincided pretty well with a planned vacation.  We were really able to limit Xbox, screen time, and activity with fun distractions like swimming and fishing.  We did his stretches and exercises diligently.  The physiotherapist was fantastic with progression ideas.  Since it was the off season it was easy to do return to sport in a controlled manner.  I’m the first to acknowledge that this would have been a lot harder had it been during school or during playoffs – but bottom line is when it happens you have to look out for your kid first.

Hopefully there is never a next time, but if there is we are more prepared.  My kids now both have updated baseline screens in case of concussions, and I know that I would reach out for an assessment right away.

If you have kids in sports with high risk for concussion – consider having a baseline screen with Butterfly.  Butterfly is  partnered with Complete Concussion Management Inc (CCMI) for evidence based concussion management.  A baseline assessment is a proactive way to help with return to learn, play, and sport in case a concussion does occur.

If you are concerned that your child might have a concussion – call right away to book an assessment and help your child spread their wings! (905) 206-0300

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