Concussions affect teens more

Concussions affect teens more

Teenagers may be more vulnerable to the effects of concussions or traumatic head injuries compared to adults and younger children, a new study has claimed.

The study, published in journal Brain Injury, found that teens had larger impairments on tests of working memory — the ability to process and store short-term information in the brain which is needed for learning — six months after they suffered a concussion compared with adults and children.

According to study author David Ellemberg, a professor of kinesiology at University of Montreal in Quebec, the region of the brain responsible for working memory, known as the frontal lobe, undergoes a growth spurt during adolescence, making it more fragile and susceptible to the effects of concussions.

Deficits in working memory can impair a person’s ability do everyday things, such as multitasking, Ellemberg said.

“Contrary to the belief that children can play through a concussion because their brains are more resilient, we find that children are more vulnerable to the effects of a brain injury than adults,” he was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

For their study, Ellemberg and colleagues examined 96 male athletes who played soccer, hockey, rugby or football; half had experienced a concussion six months earlier.

Participants underwent a battery of tests designed to measure their cognitive abilities, such as recalling a set of letters, after counting backward by threes. They also had their brain waves measured using electroencephalography (EEG) as they played a computer game that required working memory.

Teens between ages 13 and 16 who had experienced a concussion had worse working memory abilities compared with teens their age who had not had a concussion, the researchers found. This difference was not seen in children ages 9 to 12, or adults, they said.

And although EEG tests showed brain abnormalities in all of the participants who had concussions, the difference from healthy people was largest for teenagers, they added. Ellemberg said that neuronal responses in teenagers were weaker and less efficient compared with those of the other groups.

The findings demonstrate that children’s brains are not more resilient after a concussion than adult’s brains. Sports teams should have a plan to manage concussions in children and teen athletes, and have athletes assessed by a physician before they return to play, Ellemberg said.