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Not all concussions are the same. Mild traumatic brain injuries (a/k/a concussions) are common in children and young adolescents, especially those who play contact sports. Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found 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 lookrd 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. She believes that kids with more severe concussions need to be monitored for a longer period of time because their symptoms may last longer.

Parents need to pay particular attention to symptoms lasting more than a month or two. Dr. Yeates categorizes symptoms 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.

Doctor Yeates believes classifying concussions as high risk or low risk may help physicians determine which patients need special attention, which could give them a better "shot" at a faster recovery. In light of the recent studies showing an association between concussion and suppressed brain function (see my last blog), it is imperative that doctors do a better job diagnosing and treating childhoold concussion.

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