Review Finds That Children Develop Mental Health Challenges Post-Concussion

May 10, 2021 11:57:12

A recent literature review conducted by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has discovered that mental health should be assessed as part of pediatric concussion management and assessment. The review was reported in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine.”

Alice Gornall, a PhD candidate from Monash University and a researcher from MCRI, stated that the relationship between mental health and delayed recovery wasn’t well understood, despite the fact that many mental health and post-concussion symptoms overlap.

The researchers reviewed 69 articles published from 1980 to 2020. The articles involved more than 89,000 children who had experienced concussions. The children were aged 18 and below and were from various countries, including New Zealand, Canada, United States and Australia. The researchers found that sporting injuries and falls were the most common injury cause, which was closely followed by car accidents.

They also discovered that in comparison with children who sustained other injuries and healthy children, almost 37% of these children internalized problems such as post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and withdrawal and also externalized issues such as hyperactivity, attention problems and aggression after a concussion.

The researchers also found that pre-existing mental health conditions were a good predictor of mental health problems brought about by concussions. The review noted that 29% of children who had been diagnosed with mental health conditions before their injuries received a new diagnosis after their concussions. In addition, nearly 26% of children who had no previous mental health issues pre-injury went on to develop symptoms.

Gornall stated that considerable improvements in mental health were noted in three to six months after the children had been injured, with a few of them experiencing continuous symptoms for a few years post-injury.

This comes after another study, also led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and reported in the “Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation,” discovered that experiencing a traumatic brain injury in early childhood was linked to lower IQ scores.

Gornall stated that concussions were a public health concern as about one-third of children experienced head injuries before they were 13 years old. She added that despite the high occurrence of concussions in adolescents and children, it was still a challenge for clinicians to identify children who were at risk of difficulties post-injury.

Vicki Anderson, PhD., of the MCRI Institute stated that intervention, prevention and assessment of mental health issues after children experienced a concussion should be integrated into the standard management of concussions.

This, Anderson added, was a way to avail adolescents and children with mental health services to either treat issues that already exist or hinder the emergence of unnecessary problems.

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