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Doc Tells All at Concussion Talk

What is a concussion ? What causes them? How can they be treated? These are some of the questions Dr. Peter McAllister, a neurologist at Associated Neurologists of Southern Connecticut , answered for Westport parents Wednesday night.

At the Heads Up For Parents presentation on concussions, sponsored by the Westport Public Schools , McAllister provided scientific information about concussions and dispelled common myths to help parents better understand these brain injuries.

"A concussion begins at the time of injury, usually after the head is whacked," McAllister told parents. "A blow to the head is not necessary, though. A direct hit to the body can cause the head to be thrown back, and so can a hit from the side."

Concussions are caused when the brain moves rapidly inside the skull and are commonly seen among athletes. But, McAllister told parents, concussions aren't more prevalent among boys. In some sports, such as soccer, McAllister said, girls are more at risk for concussions.

Another myth McAllister busted was the link between concussions and blackouts.

"You don't have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. A lot of kids, at the moment of impact, don't feel so bad," he said. "So oftentimes, a kid is diagnosed with a concussion 24 hours later."

Signs that your child may have a concussion include headaches, clumsiness, retrograde or anterograde amnesia, irritability, nausea and vomiting. Other common indicators are cognitive dysfunction, an inability to do homework or poor results on tests.

If your child is diagnosed with a concussion, McAllister said the best thing is complete relaxation for the first few days.

"The brain needs rest," he said. "That means limited the TV, computer, no loud music and no cell phone."

To prevent a concussion, McAllister offered three tips: Students need to wear properly fitting helmets, should perform neck-strengthening exercises and team players and coaches need to respect the head.

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