Some children may have memory and attention problems up to a year after a concussion, issues that can be tied to a lower quality of life and an increased risk of needing extra help in school, according to a U.S. study.
Concussion is by far the most common form of brain injury and has received increasing attention in the media, and millions of U.S. children get a concussion every year -- but many don't go to the hospital, said Keith Yeates at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, who worked on the study.
"Out study pretty convincingly shows that the vast majority of kids do very well after a mild traumatic brain injury," Yeates said. "The not-so-good news is that there is a small group of kids who have symptoms up to a year after their injury."
In the study, which appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Yeates and his team followed 186 children aged eight to 15 who came to the emergency department with a concussion.
They compared them with a group of children with other kinds of injuries to try to account for the fact that children who hurt themselves in any way may be different from their peers.
Children with brain injuries were more likely to have both "somatic" symptoms like headache, fatigue and balance problems, and cognitive symptoms such as forgetfulness and attention problems.
The somatic symptoms tended to wane over time, but in some cases the cognitive problems persisted, particularly for those children who lost consciousness when they hit their head or had abnormal results on an MRI scan.
Yeates estimated that about 10 percent to 15 percent of the children with loss of consciousness continue to have cognitive problems for months after their injury.
"Right after injuries we know that if we tell parents what they can expect, that actually helps reduce symptoms because you don't have parents who are anxious, and kids who are anxious," he added.
The study is based on parents' assessments of their child's symptoms and can't prove that the symptoms were necessarily caused by the brain injury. But Yeates said he felt certain that is the case because the symptoms were more common with severe injuries.