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Kids' Concussion Symptoms Can Last a Year, Study Says

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Some children who suffer a concussion will display continued difficulties, such as attention and memory problems, for many months, a new study finds.

Concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, are common in childhood, with more than 500,000 children and teens a year needing hospital treatment for these injuries, the researchers note.

"The results of the study suggest that the majority of kids who sustain mild traumatic brain injuries actually do quite well and don't have to have persistent symptoms after their injury," said lead researcher Keith Owen Yeates, director of Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"But, there is a small, but significant proportion of kids that do go on to have persistent symptoms after their injury, lasting as long as three to 12 months," he added.

The extent and duration of the symptoms appear to be related to the severity of the injury, and can affect quality of life and school performance, he said.

Kids shouldn't go back to play until their symptoms are gone, and the medical profession must fine-tune guidelines regarding permissible post-concussion activity, Yeates said.

The report was published in the March 5 online edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

For the study, Yeates' team compared almost 200 children and teens ages 8 to 15 who suffered a mild brain injury to about 100 similarly aged children who had a bone injury.

The researchers looked for symptoms of headache, fatigue, inattention and memory problems during the year after the injury.

They found children who suffered a mild brain injury were more likely to show these symptoms compared to other children. Also, the physical symptoms abated sooner in the concussed kids than the problems involving mental, or cognitive, functioning.

Moreover, these symptoms appeared worse in children who had lost consciousness or had abnormalities seen on brain scans, the investigators added.

It's not just football and hockey that pose a risk for student athletes. Soccer is the leading cause of sports-related concussions among high-school-age girls, the study pointed out.

Dr. Frederick Rivara, a professor and division chief of general pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said concussions are taken more seriously by physicians, parents and coaches nowadays.

Sports are important for health, but care must be taken to protect youngsters from head injuries, Rivara said.

"If kids have symptoms of concussion they should be taken out of the game and shouldn't return to play without seeing a physician," he said.

Rivara said children should see a doctor after a concussion whether or not they lose consciousness.

"We have ignored these injuries, and we don't know enough about these injuries," he said. More research is needed about the consequences of concussions, he added.

More information

For more information on concussions, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Keith Owen Yeates, Ph.D., director, Behavioral Health Services, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., professor, division chief, general pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle; March 5, 2012, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, online

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