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Why are Teens More Susceptible to Concussions?

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It turns out that it is true that teenage behavior can sometimes be explained by underdeveloped frontal lobes. This also explains why teenagers are more vulnerable to concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries.

Research results published in Brain Injury by Université de Montréal neuropsychologist Dave Ellemberg reveal that adolescents are more sensitive to the effects of a sport-related concussion than adults or children. These kinds of injuries mostly affect their working memory – the brain function that enables us to process and store short-term information and that is essential for activities such as reading and mental calculation. “The frontal regions of the brain are more vulnerable to concussions. These areas oversee executive functions responsible for planning, organizing and managing information. During adolescence, these functions are developing rapidly which makes them more fragile to stress and trauma,” explained Dr. Ellemberg, who is a professor at the university’s Department of Kinesiology.

This study is the first of its kind to measure the impact of sport-related concussions on children. It is also the first to compare the consequences of the trauma on three different age groups-adolescents, adults, and children.

“For a long time, we believed that the brain of a child was more plastic and could therefore better recover from an accident or stress,” says Ellemberg. “In recent years, we’ve realized that quite to the contrary, a child’s brain is more vulnerable. Our research shows that children are as afflicted as adults by a concussion.”

This same logic applies when an infant is exposed to neuro-toxins such as lead-based paint. The damage to the developing brain may be significantly worse than damage to an already developed brain from the same exposure.