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Be Aware of Second-Impact Syndrome

Some traumatic brain injuries are more serious than others. A concussion is a relatively mild type of TBI. If your child sustains a concussion, he or she is likely to make a full recovery. 

However, that does not mean you should allow your child to return to activities right away. Even a mild concussion could become more serious if your child sustains another head trauma before the first one has completely resolved. The term for the potentially life-threatening condition that can develop from multiple brain injuries that occur in short succession is second-impact syndrome. 


Second-impact syndrome consists of rapid swelling in the brain. The swelling itself is not observable, but the symptoms it can cause include the following: 

  • Unconsciousness 
  • Loss of eye movement 
  • Respiratory failure 
  • Dilated pupils 

These symptoms come on suddenly and progress rapidly. They also require immediate medical attention. 


If the patient does not receive prompt treatment, second-impact syndrome could result in death. Those who survive could experience brain damage, the effects of which could be long-lasting and even permanent. Brain damage can result in physical, mental and behavioral changes. 

Treatment and prevention 

If you suspect second-impact syndrome, you can improve your child’s chances by ensuring that he or she goes directly to an emergency room. An urgent care center cannot deal with brain trauma, and taking your child there will only waste precious time. 

It may be impossible to eliminate all risk factors for recurrent head trauma following a concussion. At the very least, you can prevent your child from participating in any strenuous or otherwise risky activities until the first concussion has healed. You and your child should follow your doctor’s recommendations as to when he or she can return to activities. When in doubt, it is safest to err on the side of caution and avoid the activity. 

It can be difficult to persuade your child to avoid activities, especially when things like college admissions or scholarships may be on the line. However, try to explain to your child that his or her health takes precedence over everything else, especially when it comes to the brain.