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Researchers point to complications with kids' post-concussion recovery

Symptoms of these injuries can linger longer than anticipated for many young kids

Photo (c) laremenko - Getty Images
As recent studies have revealed, kids suffer from concussions longer than adults. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland found that the recovery process could be even more complicated than anticipated. 

The study revealed that when kids’ post-concussion symptoms last longer than expected, it could affect overall brain function. 

“In the MRI scans of children with persistent concussion symptoms, poor sleep was linked to decreases in brain grey matter and reduced brain function,” said researcher Dr. Kartik Iyer. “Identifying decreases in brain function can allow us to predict if a child will recover properly.” 

Risks to look for

To understand the effects that persistent concussion symptoms can have on children, the researchers had 110 kids participate in the study, all of whom were recovering from a recent head injury. The children were assessed twice over the course of the study, once when they were four weeks post-concussion and then again when they were eight to 10 weeks post-concussion. 

While recovering from a concussion can take time, this study highlighted how common it is for kids to have lingering symptoms. It also showed how serious those symptoms can be for brain development and function. 

One symptom that was associated with difficult recovery was disrupted sleep. Those who couldn’t get back into their regular sleeping routine up to two months post-injury were more likely to have issues with their brain function. 

According to the researchers, it’s important that both clinicians and parents are aware of these possible concerns, as children who are struggling to recover from a concussion could be having difficulties doing things in their day-to-day lives. 

“Generally, children with persistent concussion symptoms will have alterations to their visual, motor, and cognitive brain regions, but we don’t have a clear understanding of how this develops and how it relates to future recovery,” said Dr. Iyer. “It can have a serious impact on their return to normal activities, including time away from school, difficulties with memory and attentiveness, disturbances to sleeping habits, and changes to mood -- all of which can affect healthy brain development.”

Changing standards for recovery

As concussions become more prevalent in young people, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines and recommendations for how medical professionals should be treating childhood concussions. The updates were part of an effort to standardize care and ensure that children aren’t doing too much before they’re ready. 

Moving forward, the researchers suggest that children are evaluated by a doctor as quickly as possible after their injuries. Parents should also take necessary precautions to prevent these injuries from happening, such as ensuring that children wear helmets during appropriate outdoor activities. 

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