The effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) on children are not fully understood, but a new study is beginning to change that. Researchers at VU University Amsterdam recently found that children who experience TBIs are more likely to struggle with attention than peers who experienced other types of trauma. The findings suggest a form of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be the result of TBI, even with the injury is relatively mild.
The researchers evaluated children aged 6 to 13. Around two-thirds of the children had experienced a TBI. The injuries varied in severity: some were as mild as a concussion that caused a headache, while others resulted in over 30 minutes of unconsciousness. The remaining one-third of the children had experienced a form of trauma that was not head-related. Approximately six months after the children’s accidents, parents and teachers rated the children’s attention and other health indicators.
Children who had experienced a TBI were more often rated as having lapses in attention, anxiety issues, and slower processing speed than children who had not experienced a TBI. The researchers point out that the effects of TBI on attention are not immediate and are often not apparent until long after the initial injury. Study author Marsh Konigs, doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam, says that the behavior of children with TBIs can be characterized by “very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower.”
The results appear to confirm a theory that victims of TBI have a type of “secondary” ADHD. These findings could aid in identifying children at-risk for academic or interpersonal issues.
This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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