Doctors affirm 'concussions are not minor' after CDC releases new guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control has released new official guidelines for doctors and families to follow in caring for children who suffer a head injury.

The guidelines come at a good time as kids kick of the new sports season and school year.

While some people tend to use the term concussion and minor head injury interchangeably, these new guidelines discourage the misleading language. Instead, what the new recommendations make crystal clear is that a concussion is a "mild traumatic brain injury," which is anything but minor.

The guidelines will not only help families, they’ll also improve how doctors care for children.

Dr. Andrew Kiragu is the Medical Director of the Pediatric ICU at Hennepin Healthcare.

“Here at Hennepin Healthcare, we admit close to 200 children every year who’ve sustained mild traumatic brain injury,” Dr. Kiragu told Fox 9.

The most common reasons Dr. Kiragu sees children 18 and under with concussions are because they've either fallen, played a contact sport, or the child was in a crash on the road.

“In people’s minds concussions are something minor. ‘Oh you got your bell rung, oh it’s okay,’ but in reality what someone has suffered is an acute brain injury,” Dr. Kiragu said.

As the Medical Director of the Pediatric ICU for the last 17 years, Dr. Kiragu is pleased to see the CDC release new clinical recommendations in caring for young people with mild TBI’s or concussions.

“It provides some clarity. As a center that takes care of these children, it was good to see that the guidelines match in many ways what we’ve been doing,” Dr. Kiragu said.

But there are some key practice-changing recommendations included in the new framework. Some of which include asking doctors to do the following:

--Use age-appropriate symptom scales for diagnosis.

--Assess risk factors for prolonged recovery.

--Counsel patients and caregivers to gradually return to school after no more than three days of rest - depending on symptoms.

Dr. Kiragu said that for many children, just putting them right back in the swing of things can be difficult because the guidelines reinforce the serious nature of a concussion.

“There are many folks who suffer from the effects of a mild TBI or concussion for weeks, sometimes even months after what some would term, ‘oh, that was just a bonk on the head,’” he said.

For these reasons Dr. Kiragu wants you to remember, "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."

“A concussion is not minor, a brain injury is not minor,” he reiterated.

Key ways to prevent these injuries are wearing helmets, seat belts, and in sports, coaches and teachers are asked make sure you're using techniques that help protect children,” he said.

More than 800,000 children seek care for traumatic brain injuries in ERs across the country every single year. In Minnesota, that's at least 6,000 young people.