Child Concussions Should Be Treated as Traumatic Brain Injuries

In a study published in the February 2010 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, Carol DeMatteo of the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario says that concussions should be referred to as mild traumatic brain injuries and treated as such. She found that many concussions are not taken seriously enough, compared to other mild brain injuries among children.

“Even children with quite serious injuries can be labelled as having a concussion,” DeMatteo said. “Concussion seems to be less alarming than ‘mild brain injury’ so it may be used to convey an injury that should have a good outcome, does not have structural brain damage and symptoms that will pass.”

However, concussions may have long-lasting effects. The headaches, amnesia and loss of consciousness usually pass quickly, but some children may develop "post-concussion syndrome" that may last for weeks or months.

Further, multiple concussions may cause cumulative neurological damage. Recently, evidence has emerged which shows that multiple concussions (commonly experienced by football players and boxers) increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

DeMatteo found that too many parents (and even some doctors) think of concussions as harmless. She decided to start her study after she heard one parent say, "My child doesn't have a brain injury. he only has a concussion."

DeMatteo's study found that children labeled as having a "concussion" were discharged earlier than children with other brain injuries, regardless of the severity of the injury. This study shows that the term "concussion" affects how people view the injury and even how it is treated in medical settings.

“Our study suggests that if a child is given a diagnosis of a concussion, the family is less likely to consider it an actual injury to the brain,” said DeMatteo . “These children may be sent back to school or allowed to return to activity sooner, and maybe before they should. This puts them at greater risk for a second injury, poor school performance and wondering what is wrong with them.”

DeMatteo suggests that doctors abandon the term "concussion" and replace it with "mild traumatic brain injury" along with more specific descriptions of the injury.

If your child experiences any type of traumatic brain injury - even if it is "just a concussion" - you should take your child to see a doctor immediately. The doctor may need to perform imaging studies to look for visible signs of brain damage. The sooner you get to the doctor, the better.

In some cases, a child's traumatic brain injury may be due to the negligence of another person. For example, if a child suffers a brain injury after slipping on a wet floor in a place of business, the business owner may be held liable. Similarly, if proper safety procedures are not followed, a school may be found negligent in the case of a brain injury that occurs during football practice. For more information about your legal rights, contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia brain injury lawyer. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.