Children Could Suffer Migraine-Like Headaches After a Concussion, Researchers Warn

Experiencing migraine-like headaches after receiving a concussion may be a signal that children are more likely to have long-term adverse health effects and a diminished quality of life.

New research suggests that migraine-like headaches suffered by children after a concussion may be a sign that they are at greater risk for long-term adverse side effects from the head injury.

More than 840,000 children visit ERs every year in the U.S. after suffering concussion or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which result even from a head trauma that is initially thought to not be severe. However, there has been increasing awareness in recent years about the potential long-term cognitive and physical symptoms that can result.

In a study published this month in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, Canadian researchers warn that post-traumatic migraines are an important indicator that there may be ongoing symptoms months after the concussion, which could negatively impact a child’s quality of life.

Long-term Childhood Concussion Risks

Prior research has linked childhood TBI’s to increased risk of ADHD and cognitive conditions later in life, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, especially if the concussion leads to sleep disturbances.

In this latest study, researchers conducted an analysis of the Advancing Concussion Assessment in Pediatrics (A-CAP) prospective cohort study from 2016 to 2019. The study included 928 children ages 8 to 16 years old conducted at five Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) network emergency departments.

Children were included if they went to an ER with acute concussion or orthopedic injuries (OI). Self-reported post-concussion symptoms and quality of life was measured at three months after concussion. Roughly 90% of children experience headaches after suffering a concussion, with many suffering migraines, according to the data.

The researchers determined 239 children suffered orthopedic injuries without suffering headache, 160 suffered concussion with no headache, 134 suffered concussion with non-migraine headaches, and 254 suffered a concussion with migraine headaches.

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Children who experienced migraines after a concussion often experienced the most severe symptoms, and had decreased quality of life three months after the concussion compared to other children, according to the researchers.

Comparatively, children who suffered concussions but did not have migraines afterward had better quality of life three months after the concussion.

The data also indicated children who had migraines were more likely to report having more symptoms overall and more somatic symptoms than children who had concussion but no migraines.

“Children without posttraumatic headache reported the lowest symptom burden and highest quality of life, comparable with children with OI, the researchers concluded. “Further research is warranted to determine effective treatment strategies that consider headache phenotype.”


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