According to a new study, sports-related concussions can impair brain function two years following injury in pre-adolescent children.
The University of Illinois kinesiology data indicate that children who sustain a concussion demonstrate deficits in brain function and cognitive performance approximately two years after injury, relative to others their age who do not have a history of mild traumatic brain injury, said researcher Charles Hillman.
The study included 30 8-to 10-year-old children who are active in athletic activities. Fifteen of the children were recruited two years following a sports-related concussion and the remaining children had no history of concussion.
The researchers assessed the children’s ability to update and maintain memory, as well as pay attention and inhibit responses when instructed to do so. The team also analyzed electrical signals in the brain while the children performed some of these cognitive tests. With the brain signals, they were able to measure how each child’s brain performed the tests.
Relative to children in the control group, those with a history of concussion performed worse on tests of working memory, attention and impulse control. This impaired performance was also reflected in differences in the electric signals in the injured children’s brains. Also, among the children with a history of concussion, those who were injured earlier in life had the largest deficits, R. Davis Moore said.
The researchers emphasize the potential for lifelong academic and vocational consequences for kids who sustain concussions early in life, Moore said.
“These data are an important first step toward understanding sustained changes in brain function and cognition that occur following childhood concussion,” Hillman said. “Our study suggests the need to find ways to improve cognitive and brain health following a head injury, in an effort to improve lifelong brain health and effective functioning.”
The results are published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.