Post Concussion Syndrome in Children
Dr Kathryn Peace
Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist
Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is a fairly common occurrence in children who have been involved in road traffic accidents particularly when a pedestrian. Many will go on to develop post-concussive syndrome (PCS), which in children has similar symptoms to those found in adults including headaches, dizziness, tiredness, sensitivity to light and sound, impaired attention and memory and slowed information processing. Generally it resolves within a few months although about 20% show evidence of persistent difficulties at 3 months post injury.
Children who are suffering from PCS do not generally show visible signs of being unwell or incapacitated and so often return to school soon after their injury despite significant demands placed on them to pay attention and learn. Inability to pay attention, tiredness and restlessness due to the PCS can easily be misinterpreted as signs of laziness, lack of motivation or wilful misbehaviour. Hence, lack of understanding by parents and teachers can easily lead to the development of secondary problems that persist long beyond the resolution of the brain injury. Similarly over-anxious parents who fear permanent brain injury can produce loss of confidence that leads to behavioural change in their children.
There is evidence from a randomised controlled research trial that the early provision of a booklet about MTBI including strategies for day to day management of problems associated with PCS can reduce the development of secondary problems in children and parental anxiety thereby limiting the effects of the PCS.
A booklet for parents of children who have suffered MTBI can be obtained from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org, alternatively there is a series of helpful leaflets available on the website for the Childrens’ Brain Injury Trust (BIRT).