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Watch symptoms, say concussion specialists

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Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:22 a.m.

Brain injury specialists say they walk a fine line when trying to convince people that concussions are serious injuries.

They don't want parents to panic each time a kid gets a bump on the head.

“We have to be careful to not be catastrophic,” said Dr. Sue Beers, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Active kids bump their heads a lot, often without telling their parents, so it's important to pay attention to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, blurred or doubled vision, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise, or memory problems, Beers said.

“If you start seeing some or all of these symptoms, and they don't start to slowly get better every day after the concussion, the parents shouldn't wait to talk to their pediatrician,” she said.

That's particularly true if symptoms worsen.

Someone with a concussion does not necessarily develop all of these symptoms, but they are the most common ones. Concussions can cause changes in behavior — a normally energetic child might become tired and cranky, for example.

Immediate treatment calls for physical and cognitive rest for up to five days, said Jonathan French, a clinical neuropsychologist with the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

“Pretty much everyone we see, we recommend cognitive rest right away,” French said.

A return to school depends on the student's symptoms and what he or she can tolerate, French said: “Each concussion and each individual is going to be different in their recovery.”

Some students can return to school right away; others need to stay home longer. They might need accommodations such as a quiet place to eat lunch or scheduling changes that enable them to rest.

UPMC's concussion program began a study in January, gathering data on about 100 students to see how various accommodations affected their recoveries, French said. It expects to publish the results within the year.

Brian Bowling is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-325-4301or

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