Children who suffer even a minor brain injury are more likely to experience attention issues, says a new study.
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." The effects are not immediate and could occur long after the incident.
The researchers looked at 113 children, between the ages six to 13, who suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and compared them with a group of 53 children who experienced a trauma that was not head-related.
The injuries were ranging from a concussion that gave them a headache or caused them to vomit, to losing consciousness for more than 30 minutes.
About 18 months after the children's accident, the researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers.
The researchers found that children with TBI had more lapses in attention and other issues, such as anxiety, a tendency to internalize their problems and slower processing speed.
The findings of the study suggests an association between head injury and lapses in attention but it does not prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
Konigs said that stimulant medications prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also benefit children with head injuries who have these attention deficiencies.
Studies have shown that adults who experienced attention issues are 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."
Bradley L. Schlaggar, head of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said, "The impact of this type of condition on a child's life can be dramatic. An impulsive child who is aggressive will have difficulty with relationships, with school performance, with participation in extracurricular activities, and so forth."
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.