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Traumatic Brain Injury in Children Can Lead to Attention Problems

A new study confirms that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can have long-lasting consequences for children, even if the TBI is not particularly severe. Researchers found that TBI victims often suffer from attention deficits and emotional problems long after the initial injury.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, more than 2.4 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury or TBI each year. Of those that require hospitalization, nearly half suffer a related disability one year after the TBI.

Many victims of TBIs are children, who are particularly vulnerable to long-lasting deficits because their brains are still developing. In a recent study, researchers from VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands compared children aged 6 to 13 years who were diagnosed with TBI with children who suffered a non-head injury.

Approximately one and a half years after the injury, the children were given the Attention Network Test to assess alerting, orienting, and executive attention, while parents and teachers performed additional behavioral assessments. The results revealed that the children who suffered TBIs had attention and internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety), higher parent ratings of externalizing problems (e.g., aggression), and lower intelligence than the non-TBI group.

The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, also found that the attention lapses and behavioral problems were more pronounced in children with more severe TBI. Children diagnosed with moderate to severe TBI, which was defined as losing consciousness for more than 30 minutes and experiencing posttraumatic amnesia for at least an hour, scored lower on IQ tests and suffered significantly more lapses of attention than the children with mild TBI.

“The kinds of daily life problems caused by attention deficits, internalizing behaviors, and externalizing behaviors are numerous and fairly self-evident,” Dr. Bradley L. Schlaggar, head of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, told Reuters Health. “An impulsive child who is aggressive will have difficulty with relationships, with school performance, with participation in extracurricular activities, and so forth.”

If you or a member of your family has suffered from a severe head injury, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact experienced San Diego personal injury attorney Robert Vaage for a free consultation.