Your Child’s Concussion Appointment

If your child was recently diagnosed with – or is suspected of having – a concussion, you may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

Dr. Christina Master with patient The Minds Matter Concussion Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provides coordinated care from a multidisciplinary team of pediatric concussion experts. Our team will help diagnose your child’s concussion, guide their recovery, and return them to active learning, play and sports.

Here you’ll find more information about what to expect before and during your child’s concussion evaluation, who you’ll meet as part of your child’s care team, what tests may be performed, and how best to guide your child’s recovery.

Before your appointment: Confirm any referrals needed

If your insurance company requires a referral before your child can be examined at CHOP, please contact your child's primary care provider. Your child’s doctor will need to know the date of your child's upcoming visit and provider numbers for insurance.

Referrals need to be in place at the time of your child's appointment at CHOP or the visit may be delayed or rescheduled.

Also, be sure to sign up for MyCHOP, which offers you direct access to your child’s electronic medical record to facilitate contact with the Minds Matter Concussion team. You will need to complete a questionnaire about your child’s medical history and the injury prior to your visit.

Every concussion is unique, with a different range of symptoms and severity for each symptom. This influences your child’s recovery, so it’s helpful for you to stay attuned to your child’s symptoms and track them over the first few days to weeks after the injury.

A concussion symptom log may be helpful to track progress in key areas impacted by concussion:

  • Cognitive activity
  • Physical activity
  • Symptoms, including physical symptoms, vision/balance, sleep, thinking/remembering and mood disruption
  • Methods successfully used to reduce symptoms

Tracking your child’s symptoms helps us make more informed decisions about which activities are appropriate during each stage of the recovery process. Parents can help youth recognize which activities significantly worsen their symptoms, so youth learn to pace themselves and better manage symptoms.

What to bring to your child’s concussion appointment

To help make your appointment with CHOP’s Concussion Program run as smoothly as possible, please come prepared with the following:

  • Appointment details. Before you go, make sure you have your doctor's name, building name/location and time of appointment. Appointments are offered at multiple locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey so you can get help close to home and as soon as possible.
  • Insurance information and cards. Make sure you bring your insurance cards, as well as any pre-authorizations or referrals your insurance company may require. Call your insurance company to get this information.
  • Co-pay or co-insurance for the visit. If you have any questions, please contact your insurance provider or call CHOP’s Billing and Insurance team at 1-800-664-7855.
  • Phone and fax numbers of your child’s primary care physician and pharmacy.
  • Copies of all medical records related to your appointment, such as any imaging or lab tests — even if results are normal.
  • Radiology images on a disc, if applicable. There may also be a way to upload these in advance, so please ask when you are making your appointment.
  • Medications. Write down a list of medications. We will need the medicine name, dosage, frequency, prescribing doctor, pharmacy name and phone number, as well as how long your child has been using this medication. Most families find it easier to toss everything in a bag and bring it along!
  • Any questions or topics you’d like to discuss. Write them down in advance so you don’t forget all the things you want to ask or tell your child’s doctor.
  • Other items. We encourage you to bring small toys, something to listen to, like music or audiobooks, and/or snacks to keep your child occupied and content while waiting. Avoid letting your child use a smart phone or tablet if screen time exacerbates concussion symptoms.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, like sneakers. We may ask your child to do tests that assess their balance or gait or their tolerance for exercise.

Also, please note that a parent or legal guardian must be present for consultation. If you are a legal guardian, please bring proof of guardianship. Please bring a copy of your child's birth certificate if the child's name has been legally changed.

What to expect when you arrive

We encourage you to arrive 30 minutes prior to your child’s scheduled appointment so we can complete the registration and check in process.

If you arrive late, you risk being seen later or having your appointment rescheduled. Please call us at 215-590-6919 if you are running late.

If you need to cancel the appointment, please give us 72 hours’ notice. Another family will be grateful for your time slot.

Who you’ll meet at your visit

There are many pediatric concussion specialists you may meet during your child’s initial concussion evaluation and future appointments. These medical professionals include:

  • Primary care sports medicine physicians
  • Pediatric neurologists
  • Advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners or physician assistants)
  • Mental and behavioral health professionals (psychologist or neuropsychologist)
  • Physical and/or occupational therapists
  • Concussion nurse navigator
  • Certified athletic trainers
  • Clinical research staff

During your child’s concussion exam

When your child’s name is called, you and your child will be escorted to an examination room, where our clinical team will:

  • Collect your child's vital signs such as weight and height.
  • Take a full medical history of your child, including reviewing any medications. (Please remember to bring a list of any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications your child is taking.)
  • Discuss your child’s symptoms and reasons for this visit, including any changes in focus, behavior, mood or learning.
  • Perform a thorough, science-backed evaluation, including state-of-the-art diagnostic tests. This may include pupillometry, a hand-held, portable device; or an exercise test to help make the diagnosis of concussion and help personalize the treatment plan.
  • Discuss concussion recovery, how concussion can affect sleep and mental health.
  • Develop an individualized “return to learn” and “return to play” plan.

You will have the opportunity during this initial patient visit to discuss your child’s symptoms, ask questions and address any concerns you may have.

Concussion diagnostics, testing and assessments

Your child's initial visit may result in additional testing to establish or confirm their concussion diagnosis. In addition to a targeted concussion history, the team will perform a standardized concussion visio-vestibular examination which will assess eye movements and visual function, as well as balance and gait. This will help the team to identify any issues that need to be addressed in the concussion recovery plan.

Your child may also undergo additional evidence-based diagnostic testing, such as exercise testing and pupillometry, in order to help the team develop a personalized concussion recovery plan.

Learn more about the concussion diagnostics available at CHOP’s Philadelphia and King of Prussia campuses and at select Care Network locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Your child may also have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge clinical research being conducted at the Minds Matter Concussion Program. Our previous patients with concussion who have participated in research in the past have helped us learn so much over the years and you are benefiting from what we have learned from them. If you are interested in participating, please ask about any potential studies your child might be eligible for while you are at your child’s visit.

Concussion recovery plans

After your child's initial visit, you will receive a visit summary detailing the examination, recommended next steps and instructions for your child's care at home. A copy of the report will be sent to your child’s primary provider to ensure your child's care plan is well coordinated and communicated.

If your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, our medical team will discuss activity modification to minimize symptom provocation, and how to gradually reintroduce learning and physical activities. Clinicians can work with your family to create customized Return to Learn and Return to Play plans for your child.

Recovery can take days or weeks depending on your child’s symptoms, but early diagnosis with activity modification, followed by a guided, gradual return to activities is critical to achieving a healthy recovery. It’s not unusual to have minor setbacks along the way; frequent breaks from brain activity can help.

During your child’s recovery from a concussion, they may feel frustrated, anxious, or depressed by the limitations placed on learning, social activities and sports due to the concussion. In addition, these feelings may be amplified by the concussion itself. It is critical that parents continue to monitor their child’s mood and support them, while also making their physician aware of any major changes. CHOP’s Minds Matter Concussion Program includes behavioral health specialists who are ready to support your child in coordination with the rest of the team.

Find additional resources to support you during your child’s concussion recovery.

Next Steps

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