The long-term link between repeated brain injuries and anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems is well established, but it appears children with sports-related concussions don’t have to grow up to deal with these types of issues in the months after their injury.
The study was lead by Ivet Hartonian, MD, from UCLA, who presented it at the American Academy of Neurology 65th Annual Meeting last week. Hartonian told Medscape Medical News, “Our results suggest that there can be long-term sequelae in children who have had a sport-related traumatic brain injury.
Physicians need to be aware of this possibility. These results also emphasize the need to play sports as safely as possible and always wear a helmet if head injury is possible.”
Between 1.6 and 3.2 million sports-related cases of TBI occur each year in the US, and roughly half of the patients are children or adolescents, yet the large majority of sport-related concussion studies have focused on college level athletes or older. The younger brain is at higher risk, and poses unique problems from adult brains because it is still developing.
Hartonian’s study observed data from seventeen patients between the ages of 11 and 16 who had completed pre- and post-injury Child Behavior Checklist forms within 6 months of their brain injury. When studying the scores, the researchers found a noticeable rise in symptoms like headaches, abdominal pain, and dizziness. Equally concerning, the researchers notices a significant increase in withdrawal and depression.
As with all studies of this small size, nothing is for sure until the results are confirmed with a larger sample size. Given the limited amount of research possible on child brain injuries that could take quite a while. In the meantime, it seems it is better to play it safe, rather than risking the health of your child’s brain.