Pediatric concussion center in Denver

At Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC), we specialize in pediatric concussion treatment and management for student athletes between five and 20 years old. Our sports medicine specialists and emergency medicine physicians in Denver use advanced techniques to maximize each child’s recovery.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment at our concussion clinic, please call (720) 979-0840.

RMHC is an industry leader in pediatric care and preventing and treating sports-related injuries. We are the only hospital in Denver with representation on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (AAP COSMF) executive committee. Additionally, RMHC provides athletic trainers to high schools in and around the Denver area to support the initiative of having medical professionals on-site during football games.

Signs of concussion in kids

The following are symptoms to watch for if you suspect your child has a pediatric concussion:

Physical symptoms:

  • Headache/pressure
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Poor balance
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Ringing in ears
  • Seeing "stars"
  • Disorientation
  • Vacant stare/glassy-eyed
  • Neck pain

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Feel in a "fog" or “slowed down”
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty concentrating/easily distracted
  • Slowed speech easily confused

Emotional symptoms:

  • Inappropriate emotions
  • Irritability
  • Personality change
  • Sadness
  • Nervousness/anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling more emotional

Sleep/energy symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Excess sleep
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

All concussion symptoms are important, but monitoring physical symptoms is critical. If any of the following physical concussion symptoms worsen within the first 48 to 72 hours, seek immediate medical attention because it may be a sign that a more serious medical condition is developing in the brain:

  • Worsening or severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Difficulty awakening

Concussions in student athletes

Signs of a concussion are what a parent or coach "sees" in a student athlete with a concussion. Sometimes, after the student athlete hits his or her head, the athlete is not even aware of a concussion, so they may not report any symptoms.

Concussion signs you may see in a student athlete include:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Disoriented or confused
  • Balance seems wobbly
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Asks the same questions repeatedly
  • Forgets plays; unsure of the game, the opponent or score
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Shows behavior or personality changes

Concussion symptoms are what the student athlete will report, if asked. It is important to tell student athletes to be honest in reporting symptoms. Do not be alarmed by any concussion symptoms, as they are the hallmark of a concussion. However, watching the concussion symptoms for improvement over time is how we know that a concussion is getting better.

What to expect at your child’s concussion evaluation

At the initial concussion evaluation at RMHC, your child will meet with several members of our team and will undergo computer-based cognitive testing (ImPACT testing). Your child’s concussion evaluation begins with a comprehensive medical history and medical exam with a physician to confirm concussion diagnosis and evaluate for complications.

A specially trained concussion specialist will educate you and your child on the typical course of a concussion and the need for physical and mental rest. Together, we will review the concussion roadmap (en Español ) that your child will follow throughout the recovery process. This comprehensive evaluation can take up to two hours.

Our Denver pediatric concussion center team will contact your child’s school or athletic trainers to discuss adjustments for your child while recovering from the concussion. The multidisciplinary team, which may include the athlete, family, school personnel, coach and/or athletic trainer, will work together with our specialists to determine a safe and effective treatment to help your child recover from the concussion and return-to-sport.

Pediatric concussion treatment

The best known treatment for a concussion in kids is rest. However, it can take anywhere from one to three weeks to fully recover, and it is very important that the brain injury is managed throughout the entire recovery process.

Concussion management involves creating a support system around the athlete. Adults at home, at school and on the field need to change and modify the environment around the student athlete to maximize his or her concussion recovery.

Baseline ImPACT concussion tests for student athletes

RMHC offers baseline ImPACT testing for young student athletes. ImPACT concussion testing is a nationally recognized, research-based computer test that provides a “snapshot” of the brain—the symptoms at baseline and the verbal, visual memory, reaction time and processing speed—prior to ever receiving a concussion.

After the child has received the diagnosis of a concussion, he or she is given a follow-up cognitive test to compare to the one taken before the concussion. This gives a full picture of the possible effects of the concussion to the brain and aids in treating the child. Throughout recovery, the child is re-tested periodically until the test matches the original baseline test, indicating that he or she has fully recovered.

Testing takes about an hour and is supervised by psychologists with experience and training in administering and interpreting the test. The results are kept confidential and are available to your child’s primary care doctor at any time.

The ImPACT baseline concussion test is especially recommended for kids 11 years old and older who participate in sports that create higher-risk situations for concussions. It is recommended that children get ImPACT baseline testing every two years to keep up the effectiveness of the test. Anyone who has sustained a concussion must wait three months post-concussion before taking the ImPACT baseline test.

To schedule a baseline ImPACT test, please call (720) 979-0840.

Follow-up pediatric concussion care

Your child will return to the RMHC concussion center about every two to three weeks for follow-up medical evaluation. Follow-up visits typically last a minimum of one hour and include 30 minutes for ImPACT testing. If the concussion is determined to be resolved, the physical return-to-play process will be prescribed. If your child is still experiencing symptoms of a concussion, the treatment plan will be reviewed and adjusted.

Concussion resources for parents