Kids who have had traumatic brain injury may suffer from lapses in focus and attention, a new study finds. Researchers examined 113 kids ages six to 13 who suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and compared their behavior with 53 kids who suffered from other forms of trauma that do not involve the head, Reuters reports.
The TBIs ranged in severity from minor concussions that resulted in headache or vomiting to more serious head injuries that caused them to lose consciousness for more than 30 minutes. All the kids involved in the study experienced TBIs about one-and-a-half years on average before the study was done.
The kids' parents and teachers rated their attention problems, internalizing problems (negative behavior focused inward, such as fear and anxiety) and externalizing problems (negative behavior focused outward, such as aggression and delinquency).
Those with TBI were found to have more attention lapses and slower processing or slower reaction time. They were also more inclined toward internalizing problems like anxiety and externalizing problems like aggression. These behaviors were observed even in kids who did not have brain damage.
The kids whose TBI involved other risk factors such as seizures and vomiting were found to have lower IQ scores and greater attention lapses compared to the others.
"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said Marsh Konigs, study author and a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, according to HealthDay.
Konigs said the effects of TBI may not just be immediate but could be experienced long after the trauma occurred, The Washington Post reports.
Andrew Adesman, who heads the developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center, said the study simply shows how even mild head injury in kids can cause long-term problems. He emphasized the need to prevent TBI by encouraging kids to use proper head gear when biking, supervising their play time and reminding them to use seat belts in the car.
"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," said Adesman, who was not involved in the study, according to HealthDay.
The original study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.