Concussion’s whole-body effects
As I was proofing pages for this month’s LER: Pediatrics, my next-door neighbor called to say her 9-year-old daughter had fallen, hard on her head, while practicing gymnastics. She wanted to me to come and watch her baby while she took her older child to the emergency department. But, after a few minutes of us watching her daughter vomit and not respond to questions, my neighbor asked me to call an ambulance.
The paramedics took daughter and mom to the hospital, and I sat with my neighbor’s baby, eventually returning to my editorial work, which included the story on page 6, “Gait metrics highlight gender differences after concussion.” I now reviewed the work with more gravity, thinking about the seriousness of these injuries, and how effects linger, including those affecting the lower extremities.
Later that day, my young neighbor was admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit, where neurologists diagnosed a concussion.
These head traumas, it turns out, raise risk for lower extremity injury for at least two years after concussion; the opposite is also true, with lower extremity injury upping risk for concussion. (See “Concussion repercussions: Studies explore lower extremity effects,” LER, June 2016, page 13). And, as the news story in this issue reports, after concussion children walk more slowly and take shorter and fewer steps during gait.
Gait and concussion, it seems, are linked—dual-task gait metrics, for example, are good at revealing biomechanical postconcussion deficits, as well as gender differences suggesting girls have more postinjury problems. Luckily, the youth sports community is heeding research about the short- and long-term effects of concussion. US Soccer, for example, in 2016 banned heading the ball for kids younger than 11, and restricted it for those aged 11 to 13.
Lower extremity practitioners have an important role to play in concussion rehabilitation, helping patients improve gait and regain strength losses common with the injuries, and with return-to-sports decisions.
My neighbor’s daughter is home now, and with time, I hope she’ll recover completely, perhaps with help from a lower extremity specialist.
By Emily Delzell, Senior Editor
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