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New Study Shows Long-Term Dangers of Severe Concussions

Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say classifying level of concussion may lead to better long-term outcomes


COLUMBUS, OH - 3/2/2009

It’s well known that mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions are a common occurrence in children and adolescents, especially young athletes. But what researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have found is that although not all concussions are the same, they are often treated in the same way – a potential problem when it comes to long-term health outcomes.

The research, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, studied a sample of nearly 200 children ages 8- to 15-years-old who suffered concussions. The study looks at the trajectory of the children’s symptoms over the year after their injuries and found that one out of every four children in the study experienced significant post-concussive symptoms. Also, those with more severe concussions, such as those resulting in a loss of consciousness, post-traumatic amnesia, or an abnormal CT scan or MRI, were more likely to have symptoms that persisted.

Keith Yeates, PhD, director of the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author, believes this study shows the need to classify concussions based on their severity as either high- or low-risk so patients can receive better treatment.

“This study provides reassurance for parents of kids who suffer first-time concussions because we can see that more often than not they recover fully within a short amount of time,” said Dr. Yeates, also a professor of Pediatrics, Psychology and Psychiatry at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “However, the study also shows that kids who are at risk because their concussions are more severe need to be monitored for a longer period of time as their symptoms may last longer.”

Parents of kids suffering from severe or multiple concussions need to pay attention and track their child’s symptoms across time. Post-concussive symptoms, according to Dr. Yeates, can be divided into three groups: somatic, cognitive, and emotional. Somatic symptoms like headaches and fatigue generally resolve themselves quickly. However, cognitive symptoms like trouble paying attention and forgetfulness may persist longer.

“Parents should pay particular attention to these symptoms when they last more than a month or two and report all ongoing symptoms to their child’s doctor so they can intervene appropriately,” said Dr. Yeates.

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