Head knocks in childhood are by no means uncommon, yet they may have lasting negative effects. New research has found a link between concussion in childhood and adverse medical and social outcomes as an adult.
Researchers analyzed data from 1.1 million people to see the effect of experiencing a traumatic brain injury in the first 25 years of life and the results were revealing.
People who experienced at least one traumatic brain injury in childhood, around 9% of those studied, were, as adults, more likely to die early or be treated for a psychiatric illness, receive a disability pension, and less likely to have completed secondary schooling.
The study found that the more severe the brain injury, the worse the outcomes in adulthood. But the research also found a significant link between concussion – the mildest and most common form of brain injury – and subsequent problems.
Concussion Vs Traumatic Brain Injury A concussion, on the mild end of the brain injury spectrum, results when force causes the brain to twist upon itself or strike the skull. Bruising and cell damage can occur, and any structural damage from the injury cannot be picked up by MRI or CT imaging, which can make diagnosis difficult. Using specialized imaging methods such as functional MRI (MRI), however, changes in patterns of brain activity are apparent soon after a concussion.
Traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain is damaged by external force such as a fall, car accident, assault or being struck by an object such as might occur during sport. It’s usually classified according to its severity. Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can result in irreversible structural damage to the brain, and in some cases death.
The Impact by Age Group Based on the study results, children who were older, and particularly those who were older than 15, were substantially more likely to have problems in adulthood.
Although the study findings are yet to be replicated, the authors suggest that the ability of the brain to adapt and change its networks and behavior, in younger years may be protective in the long term.
In older children, reducing the incidence of sports-related concussions may be trickier. Wearing hard helmets in sports generally reduces the risk of severe head injuries such as skull fractures and bleeding inside the skull, but is ineffective against the rotational forces – forces that cause the head to turn rapidly and the brain to twist on itself, that can cause concussion.
Many concussions occur without noticeable signs such as disorientation or slurred speech, and for that reason go undiagnosed. The danger of an unrecognized concussion on the sporting field – which predisposes a player to subsequent concussion – is that it increases the risk of lasting damage.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Concussions?
If your child has experienced a bump or blow to the head during a game or practice, look for any of the following signs of a concussion:
• Appears dazed or stunned
• Is confused about assignment or position
• Forgets an instruction
• Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
• Moves clumsily
• Answers questions slowly
• Loses consciousness (even briefly)
• Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
Be alert for symptoms that worsen over time. Your child or teen should be seen in an emergency department right away if s/he has:
• One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
• Drowsiness or cannot be awakened
• A headache that gets worse and does not go away
• Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
• Repeated vomiting or nausea
• Slurred speech
• Convulsions or seizures
• Difficulty recognizing people or places
• Loss of consciousness (even a brief loss of consciousness).