With professional football playoffs in full swing, concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries are top of mind for many across the U.S.

These types of injuries are a serious concern for people of all age groups, including our children, and require prompt medical evaluation and follow up.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new concussion guidelines for pediatric healthcare professionals to follow to protect our young patients.

The Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Guidelines were put in place in late 2018 to help healthcare providers like you take action to improve the health of your patients, reports the CDC.

Children ages 0 to 4 had the highest rates of any age group for traumatic brain injury-related ED visits from 2001-2010, according to the CDC. Their rate of ED visits was twice the rate of those in the next highest age group of 15- to 24-year-olds.

A concussion results from a direct blow to the head, neck or body in which impulsive forces are transmitted to the brain, according to our continuing education module “Sports-Related Concussions: Tackling a Growing Trend.” A concussion is a closed head injury that may result in loss of consciousness and causes functional rather than structural damage to the brain.

Injury is caused by acceleration-deceleration and rotational forces to the brain, according to our continuing education course. The head is either thrown backward or forward causing injury. The brain also may rotate inside the skull, causing further damage.

Our continuing education course you will teach you how to do the following:

  • Define sports-related concussions.
  • Understand which sports lead to the most concussions.
  • Describe the short- and long-term symptoms of sports-related concussions.
  • Discuss expert recommendations to prevent and manage sports-related concussions.

Key concussion guideline updates to note

The new CDC report includes 19 sets of evidence-based clinical recommendations that cover diagnosis, prognosis, management and treatment. The guidelines were created after reviewing 37,000 concussion articles written over a 25-year time frame from 1990-2015.

Although sports-related injuries tend to get more media coverage, the most common causes of traumatic brain injury-related deaths in children up to age 4 include assault (43%) and car accidents (29%). In patients ages 5-14, car accidents account for more than half (56%) of all traumatic brain injury deaths, reports the CDC.

Key recommendations to follow for pediatric mild traumatic brain injuries include:

  1. Do not routinely image patients to diagnose.

  2. Use validated, age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose patients.

  3. Assess evidence-based risk factors for prolonged recovery.

  4. Provide patients with instructions on return to activity customized to their symptoms.

  5. Counsel patients to return gradually to non-sports activities after no more than 2-3 days of rest. The previous recommendation said to eliminate physical or cognitive exertion until all symptoms had resolved.

Use these healthcare provider tools provided by the CDC for further guidance about concussions.