Childhood Brain Injury May Increase ADHD Risk: Study

New research suggests that children who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more likely to suffer long term attention deficit disorders and other neurocognitive problems affecting intelligence and behavior. 

In a study published this week by the medical journal Pediatrics, a group of researchers led by Marsh Konig, of VU University Amsterdam, investigated the impact of pediatric brain injury by using parent and teacher questionnaires for more than 166 children.

Researchers found that children between the ages of six and 13 who suffered moderate to severe TBI showed elevated parental ratings of behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and increased lapses of attention.

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Although studies have shown for years that secondary attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can develop after children experience brain injuries, this research is the first to present evidence that these attention lapses are related to intelligence and attention problems that can cause complications throughout many stages of an individual’s life, the researchers claim.

Konig and his team of 11 doctors and researchers compared data on 113 children who had suffered a brain injury to 53 children who suffered a non-head injury, all within an average of one and a half years following their injury. The researchers collected data by using parent and teacher questionnaires, and the Attention Network Test rated the children based on alerting, orienting, and executive attention.

The results suggest that all classifications of TBI, including low, mild, moderate, and severe, were linked to some form of behavioral, attention, and intelligence impact from the parent and teacher questionnaires. However, children who were classified as having moderate to severe TBI events showed elevated levels of effects.

Researchers indicate that ninety-one of the children who had suffered some form of moderate to severe brain injury that resulted in loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes and had post-traumatic amnesia for at least an hour, scored lower on IQ tests and had increased lapses of attention when compared to those with low to mild TBI. These children also showed increased behavioral problems including aggression and impulsiveness.

The low to mild groups who suffered TBI did not show signs of lower intelligence or behavioral problems, however this group was observed to have shown extremely slow responses to mean reaction times, suggesting that TBI could have caused each groups’ attention lapse disorders.

Konig’s conclusion suggest that the consequences of a childhood brain injury vary between children, depending on the severity of the injury and other genetic factors. However, this evidence should be taken into considered by teachers and doctors when children appear to have very short lapses in focus and process information slower.

The long term consequences of a brain injury as a child can become daily struggles as they grow into adulthood, potentially causing them to have difficulty with relationships, school performance, and participation in extracurricular activities.

In 2013, researchers published a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that children with childhood brain injuries, usually stemming from sports, were five times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability worldwide, resulting in nearly 2 million head traumas cases each year. A large majority of these traumas stem from sports injuries such as football and common outdoor activities.


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