Children who suffer an injury to the brain -- even a minor one -- are more likely to experience attention issues, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
The effects may not be immediate and could occur long after the incident. Study author Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam, described the impact as "very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower."
Researchers looked at 113 children, ages six to 13, who suffered from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) ranging from a concussion that gave them a headache or caused them to vomit, to losing consciousness for more than 30 minutes, and compared them with a group of 53 children who experienced a trauma that was not head-related.
About 18 months after the children's accidents, parents and teachers were asked to rate their attention and other indicators of their health. They found that those with TBI had more lapses in attention and other issues, such as anxiety, a tendency to internalize their problems and slower processing speed.
Based on studies of adults who experienced attention issues after suffering from a brain injury, doctors have theorized for years that head injuries in children might be followed by a "secondary attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." This study appears to confirm that association.
The impact of this type of condition on a child's life can be dramatic. Bradley L. Schlaggar, head of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in an interview with Reuters that the “an impulsive child who is aggressive will have difficulty with relationships, with school performance, with participation in extracurricular activities, and so forth."