Millions of children get concussions each year, and many don’t even seek medical attention. Most parents may dismiss the problem, but a new study suggests these seemingly minor head traumas may actually affect the way children behave, causing memory and attention problems for up to a year after the trauma. They may even be to blame for children requiring extra help in school.
The good news is that the study, which appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, provided pretty convincing evidence that the vast majority of children do well after a mild traumatic brain injury. But the not-so-good news is that there is a small group of kids who have symptoms that can linger for months.
For the study, researchers followed 186 children aged 8 to 15 who visited the emergency room with a concussion. Those children were compared with a group of children with other injuries. Researchers found that children with brain injuries were more likely to have somatic symptoms, like headache, fatigue and balance problems, as well as cognitive symptoms, like forgetfulness and difficulty paying attention.
While the somatic symptoms generally went away over time, the cognitive symptoms persisted, especially for children who lost consciousness when the brain trauma occurred or children who received abnormal results from an MRI scan. Researchers estimated that 10 to 15 percent of children who lost consciousness continue to have cognitive problems months after the injury occurred.
The study was based on parents’ assessments and can’t prove that symptoms were caused by the brain injury and not by another factor, but researchers say they feel confident in the results as the symptoms were more prevalent in children with the most severe brain traumas.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.