What Are the Dangers of Concussions in Children?

Not all children recover the same way after a serious bump on the head, a new study reveals.

As any worried parent knows, when your child takes a spill and gets a concussion, there may be long-term consequences. One of our studies that was published in the March 15 issue of the journal Neurology is a step forward in determining just how serious those consequences may be.

The study looked at 21 children between the ages of eight and 18 who were diagnosed with concussions after being hit by cars, were in a car accident or fell from a bicycle, skateboard or scooter. It looked at scans and EEGs (electroencephalograms) of their brains a few months after the injury and again a year later to determine if children who had delays in perception following the accident showed changes in their brain later on.

“We found that children who had delayed information transfer times between the two brain hemispheres had widespread regions of white matter disorganization and progressive loss of white matter volume,” said Emily Dennis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. This is particularly disturbing because children’s brains are still maturing up until the age of 30.

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The children who had normal transfer times at the initial evaluation continued to have normal transfer times at the year mark as well.

What does this mean for you?

In the future, there might be treatments developed to address and prevent the progressive decline. In the meantime, it is imperative to have a concussion diagnosed and treated immediately.

“The finding in this study that there is degeneration of white matter in about half of the children with moderate to severe TBI during the first 16 months after an injury should stimulate attempts to understand why this is happening,” Dennis said.

To protect your child from concussions, follow this advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Boost car safety. Children under 4 feet 9 inches tall should sit in the back seat of a car with a booster seat and use the car’s seat belt.
  • Buckle up. Once your child is tall enough to sit in the front (usually around 13 years old), he or she should always use the car’s seat belt. You should, too — it not only protects you in the event of an accident, it’s the law.
  • Insist on helmets. Children should wear helmets for riding activities, including everything from skateboarding to horseback riding to snowboarding and any contact sports, such as lacrosse, football and hockey.
  • Teach them to speak up. It can be hard for children to stop playing, especially when it’s a team sport, or to tell their coach or parent that they don’t feel right. But that’s exactly what they need to do. Teach your children that a head injury is too important to ignore.


If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top neurologists in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting http://www.neuro.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.

By: Anne Fritz