Three weeks ago, my son suffered concussion at a rugby tournament. He’d gone in for a tackle at the same time as another player and had knocked heads with him after only a few minutes on the pitch.
He’d been taken to an ambulance on site and thoroughly assessed for 20 minutes. He was diagnosed with mild concussion and the paramedics were satisfied he didn’t need to go to A&E.
I’d never really thought about it before, but concussion is a brain injury, and recovery can be pretty slow. On the one level, my son has felt OK, but he has also felt that something was holding him back and wasn’t quite right. It has been frustrating for a boy as bright and active as my son.
When I first saw my son after his injury, he seemed OK. He was in reasonably good spirits, he’d eaten and wasn’t in much pain. The only indications that he wasn’t quite right were that he was talking a bit slowly and that he was downstairs, rather than in his room, where he usually spends all of his time.
Later, his head started hurting more, he couldn’t play on his Switch and he felt tired. He also accidentally microwaved a crumpet rather than toasting it. This is all normal for concussion. It is also a story we will probably laugh about forever.
I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be at school the next day. Before the rugby tournament had even started, I had actually predicted he would miss school the following day, although it turns out the reasons were different.
I wasn’t at all surprised that my son couldn’t get out of bed the next day. I didn’t think he should go to school anyway. He slept until 12 and seemed OK when he got up, but soon had to stop playing on his Switch again, because thinking hurt his head. And a short walk tired him out. But he still wanted to play in a house rugby tournament at school the next day.
The next day, he slept until 10 and said his head felt a bit better. He refused to even try playing on his Switch – and this is a boy who is on it for literally hours a day. This was the first time ever I’d actually encouraged him to play, because I wanted to know if it would still hurt his head.
When he tried to do some homework, he couldn’t do it because he said his head had ‘blanks’. He was determined to go to school the next day, even though he had three tests and a PE lesson, which he now realised he wouldn’t be able to take part in. I felt he probably needed to be off school for the rest of the week, but could understand why he wanted to go.
He didn’t go to school on Wednesday either. The heart was desperate to go, but the head and body were telling him he just wasn’t ready for it. He was too tired to get out of bed. He’s a teenage boy, he’s always too tired to get out of bed, but he recognised that this tiredness was different – it couldn’t be washed away by the shower. The only way to make it go away was to keep sleeping.
I was glad he hadn’t tried to go in, because he would have done badly in the tests and that would have upset him. Potentially it might even have meant him moving down a set in maths. Far better to miss the tests and do them next term when he’s back to normal.
But he was was worrying about the work he’d missed and missing his friends and all of the fun of the end of term. He said he would DEFINITELY be at school the next day and, as the day wore on, I thought he was probably right. We went for the same walk we’d been on earlier in the week and he only started to feel tired just before we got home, which was an improvement.
So he went to school on Thursday and, not only that, he went to his best friend’s for a sleepover. We wouldn’t normally do sleepovers on a school night, but it was his friend’s birthday and pretty much the end of term.
After three days of having him around the whole time, I missed having him at home. When I picked him up from school after a short day on Friday, he said he felt better. He was still vaguely aware of the ‘blanks’ in his head, but they weren’t as bad or as frequent. Luckily, with it being the end of term, he’d only had one and a half ‘proper’ lessons, and he’d actually done surprisingly well in a fun Christmas maths quiz.
On Saturday, he finally went back to his Switch, but only quite briefly. It would be an unexpected bonus if concussion broke his addiction to his Switch.
If he had to be concussed, this was a good time to do it. School rugby is over for the year and he will have a little bit of evening training from February onwards. His first football match (in fact his first sport) was exactly three weeks after the concussion. We weren’t sure whether he should play, despite the fact that he was feeling well in himself.
The FA’s advice for head injuries in football is that kids take three weeks off, so we took that to be the same for head injuries from rugby. My son was under strict instructions not to head the ball and reassured us that he wouldn’t. But he headed it once and went in for a couple more headers and missed. He said he felt fine during and after the game.
He had a couple of mild headaches last week, over two weeks after his injury. Apparently some symptoms are to be expected for up to three months after a concussion. You only need to see a GP if you’re still getting symptoms after three months.
He’s feeling well now and no longer excessively tired. Having three weeks without any sport scheduled meant we didn’t have to have the ‘I know you feel better, but you still shouldn’t play’ debate. He’s agreed that, in future, he will always wear a scrum hat for rugby. They don’t give a huge amount of protection, but they would take the edge of an injury. Wearing a hat might have been enough to prevent concussion, who knows?
I am just grateful that he is better now, with hopefully no long-lasting effects.