As all parents and grandparents know all too well, children are resilient. Scraped knees, bumps and bruises are all part of growing up, and children usually bounce back quickly from life’s ups and downs. But a new study indicates that recovery time is slower in the case of concussions – even those that are considered relatively minor – and that it takes longer to recover after each successive concussion. The findings of the new study were published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, which is caused by a blow to the head or a blow to the body that jars the head, causing the brain to move around inside the skull. All concussions are considered serious. The long-term effects are still being studied, but researchers now believe repeated concussions may eventually lead to depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
The study observed 280 young people ages 11 to 22 who came to the emergency room within a few days of suffering a concussion. The youths took home questionnaires and reported their symptoms during the next 12 weeks. They also noted the last day on which they had any type of concussion-related problems.
The results revealed children who had never suffered a concussion before recovered more quickly than those who had previous concussions. Youngsters who had never had a concussion before reported recovery time around 12 days after the head injury. Those who had at least one past concussion took an average of 24 days to fully recover, and as much as 35 days if the previous concussion had been sustained within a year of the new injury.
As a result of the study, doctors are urging parents and coaches to use even more caution to decide when a child is healthy enough to return to normal activities, and especially to return to sports and other physical activities. Dr. Matthew Eisenberg from Boston Children’s hospital told Reuters Health:
Even after symptoms have improved and even after these neuropsychological tests have returned to normal, there’s still a vulnerability that can lead to a much more severe second concussion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a number of fact sheets about concussion for parents and coaches, as part of its “Heads Up” concussion awareness program. The materials are available online at www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp.
Sources: CDC, Reuters
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