CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Your child takes a tough hit and goes down on the field. You don't see them move. It's a parent's worst nightmare and it happened to Chesterfield County mom Jennifer Castro.
Brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in children and teens in the United States. 75% of all traumatic brain injuries start out as concussions. Unlike a broken leg, they don't show up on an X-ray or MRI. It's a silent often undiagnosed problem.
"I remember stepping into the batter's box and then the next thing I know I'm in an ambulance," says 15-year-old Mark Castro.
"I was in panic mode. I was shaking. His eyes wide open. He was seizing."
The unthinkable happened to Jennifer Castro's family last spring as she watched her son's at bat. Then, 14-year-old Mark took a shot to the head while sliding into home plate.
"It was just a freak accident! He went like this at my head, kind of my lower jaw area is what they told me, and my head went back and hit the ground." While lying there, Mark went into a massive seizure.
"I was running onto the field, calling 911. I was just devastated, crying, scared, shaking. Wondering how he was going to get through. Was he going to be brain injured? Is he going to walk again? What's happened with my child."
Mark spent a day in the hospital. He was placed in a neck brace. He had MRI's and CT scans. He was eventually diagnosed with a mild concussion and sent home. But for weeks his symptoms just would not go away.
"I had headaches, headaches that would last anywhere from an hour basically the whole day. I had sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound. I got tired a lot quicker."
He was having trouble concentrating. This straight-A student couldn't handle school work.
"He couldn't focus, he was like in a fog and it was things that were just... A doctor couldn't see," said Jennifer.
After 18 straight days of headaches, Mark was sent to the Brain Injury Clinic at Children's Hospital. Doctor's say — like a computer — Mark's brain had to shutdown and re-boot. They put him on 7 days of complete rest.
"No reading, no cell phone, no TV... nothing! Nothing that stimulates the brain. No computer, nothing," said his mom.
The concussion turned into a serious brain injury. Doctors warned Mark.
"If I were to get another really serious concussion, that it could even cause death. I mean, it's very serious, you can't take it lightly."
Months later, he is 100-percent cleared. He missed six weeks of school. But he is finally back on track, even rejoining the golf team.
He's back in the swing, but the memories of his head injury are not far away. The Castro's have a message for all parents and coaches.
"If they have a headache, if they have anything going on after, you have to take it serious, because it's not something that's going to show up on a CT scan," said Jennifer.
Adds Mark, "It doesn't take playing football or a dangerous sport to get really seriously injured."
Mark says he wants to step behind home plate again. His mom says... we'll see.
Concussions are different for every person, but if you notice changes in school performance, memory problems, confusion, headaches, dizziness — especially days after a big hit — these are symptoms you simply can not ignore.