Concussion Headaches

soccerball_lI’ve been learning about concussions of late because of my youngest. She was happy to be on a soccer team with her friends. During the second game she got her bell rung, as they say, by a soccer ball that hit her just to the left of her left eye. She’s a tough kid, but this knocked her down and had her in tears. About four hours later she was vomiting, dizzy, off balance, and hearing high-pitched noises. At the ER, she couldn’t stand up straight if she closed her eyes. Her CT scan was clean.

The verdict: Concussion. Follow up: Check in with her pediatrician if things grew worse. By Monday she wasn’t worse, but she wasn’t great. I didn’t check in but she did stay home from school. 

On Wednesday, I learned that not checking in was a big mistake. To keep you from making a similar mistake, I’d like to share the current thinking on concussion care I learned when I did check in with the pediatrician today because, while my daughter was not worse, but she was definitely not better. (Also, a search of medical sites turned up info about post-concussion headaches in people with migraines–my daughter takes daily medication to prevent migraines–and concussions.)

This info/treatment recommendation is the same whether or not the patient has migraines:

  1. It’s significant if the person with the head injury cannot stand straight with his/her eyes closed. It indicates that the concussion is not minor and will likely take a while to resolve itself. (A while could mean about 6 weeks.)

  2. Headaches after concussion indicate that there is still trauma to the brain. (There’s a reason the patient feels lousy!)

  3. Brain Rest (Cognitive Rest) after a significant concussion is recommended to speed recovery and to prevent further complications. (It may not make a difference with a minor concussion.)

Brain Rest requires the patient to do nothing that requires cognitive functioning. For a student, that means no math class. Seriously. For how long depends upon how long the headaches last. Brain Rest also means no school for several days, and after that gradually going to school a bit at a time. The process can take several weeks, with the length of time being determined by how long it takes for the headaches to dissipate.

During the first days of the Brain Rest period, the patient is not to watch tv, text with friends, listen to contemporary music, read, do calculations … As my son put it, his sister is to “stay in a deprivation tank, which is pretty much impossible for a Millennial.” Sounds extreme because it is but for my daughter, this definitely makes sense. She’s been foggy-brained, exhausted, and experiencing headaches that are worse by the end of the day since she got clocked.

The take away? Respect the Headache. It’s your red flag that everything is not back to normal and that your child is not ready to be back to normal, either. And it’s not just about sports, it’s about schoolwork, school attendance, and what to do while feeling like someone is standing on your head.

More info


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