What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Pediatric Concussion?

Long-Term Effects of Childhood Concussion Concussions are often caused by the fault of others. Any forceful blow to the head can cause a concussion. Common causes include car accidents, truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, and unsafe products that can cause falls or explosions. A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury that can affect the victim’s life forever. Concussions are especially concerning when a child suffers a concussion – especially an infant, toddler, or pre-teen.

What is a concussion?

According to the Mayo Clinic, concussions affect brain function. For some Columbus accident victims, the effects are temporary. For others, the effects can be permanent.

The symptoms of a concussion in children can be hard to recognize and diagnose because youngsters can’t explain how they feel. Childhood concussion symptoms include excessive crying, loss of balance and unsteady walking, irritability, a dazed appearance, changes in sleep and eating patterns, tiring easily, a lack of interest in their toys, vomiting, and seizures.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that parents seek medical help if a child or adult has a head injury and has some of the following symptoms:

  • Continual nausea
  • A loss of consciousness for more than 30 seconds
  • Worsening headaches
  • “Fluid or blood draining from the nose or ears”
  • Ringing in the ears that doesn’t subside with time
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Pupils of uneven sizes or dilated pupils
  • Behavior changes
  • Confusion
  • Speech changes
  • Physical coordination difficulties
  • Mental function difficulties
  • “Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children, especially in infants under 12 months of age”

What are the long-term effects of a concussion?

According to the University of Utah Health, the long term effects of a concussion are rare. Most people recover fully within a few weeks. About 20 percent suffer from post-concussions syndrome, where they continue to have symptoms more than six weeks after the accident or incident that caused the concussion. Multiple concussions increase the rise of post-concussion syndrome – especially if the brain doesn’t have enough time to heal between concussions.

However, there are currently studies being done into the link between concussions and mTBI and the increased risk of serious conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. Brent Masel, M.D., the Medical Director of the Brain Injury Association of America, has argued that traumatic brain injury is a disease process and not a single event. Dr. Masel suggested as early as 2010 that traumatic brain injury causes an enhanced risk of future medical diseases.

The long-term effects of a childhood concussion

Research in 2017 reported in the Translational Psychiatry journal (and discussed in Consumer Reports) studied the effects of concussions on children who developed concussions while playing football – based on whether they started playing before or after 12 years old. The study was performed by Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center. The study found that those “who started playing before 12 had increased odds of having problems with behavioral regulation—controlling emotion and impulse—and with executive function by twofold and increased odds of clinical depression by threefold.”

Dr. Elizabeth Sandel, MD, who has been advising patients with brain injuries for more than 35 years and also serves as Clinical Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, discussed the long-term effects of concussions or brain injuries in children in April 2022. She wrote that the long-term studies of childhood concussions come from countries that have large national databases, unlike the United States.

In one study, an Oxford University professor and her research team analyzed the health, welfare, and education records of a million-plus Swedes born between 1973 and 1985. The study examined the long-term consequences of having a traumatic brain injury (TBI) before 25 years of age. The study compared people who had a TBI before age 25 to people in the same age group who did not have a TBI. They also compared brothers and sisters (who did not have a TBI) to people who did have a TBI before 25 years old.

The research found that a childhood TBI increases the odds of:

  • Low educational attainment
  • Needing psychiatric care
  • The odds of receiving welfare and disability benefits
  • Early death

The more severe the TBI and multiple TBIs made these outcomes more likely:

Those who had experienced a single mild, moderate, or severe brain injury during childhood were at twice the risk of being hospitalized for a mental health condition (an increase in absolute risk from 5% to 10%) and were 50% more likely to use a mental health service (an increase from 14% to 20%) than unaffected people in the same age group.

The study also found that a youthful TBI increased:

  • The likelihood of receiving disability benefits from 4 percent to 6 percent.
  • The likelihood of death before 41 from .8 percent to 1.6 percent.
  • The odds of performing poorly in school from 9 percent to 14 percent.
  • The odds of receiving welfare benefits jumped from 12 percent to 19 percent.

Repeat TBIs increased the odds of receiving disability benefits by 250 percent as compared to contemporaries who had just one TBI.

Dr. Sandel also discussed another study that showed that more than one-third of children and adolescents had an increased risk of a mental health condition after a concussion. This study was conducted at Monash University in Australia. The study reviewed nearly 70 research articles (published between 1980 to June 2020). The study examined nearly 90,000 children aged 0-18 years who had experienced concussions.

The review included data from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Falls accounted for about 42 percent of concussions. Car accidents accounted for about 16 percent of concussions. The research found that:

Almost 37% experienced significantly high levels of internalizing problems such as withdrawing, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, with 20% externalizing problems such as aggression, inattention, and hyperactivity after concussion compared with healthy children or children who sustained other injuries such as an arm fracture.

The research also found that “pre-existing mental health problems strongly predicted the development of post-concussion mental health issues.” While many children’s mental health improved within three to six months of the injury, some experienced mental health difficulties for several years.

At Soroka & Associates, our seasoned Columbus personal injury lawyers understand how traumatic any injury to your child is. We work with your medical team and our network of doctors to fully understand the severity and scope of your child’s medical needs and challenges. We work aggressively to hold drivers, property owners, product manufacturers, and others accountable for your child’s injuries. To discuss your child’s rights, call us at 614-414-3692 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation.