An alarming new study finds that when pre-adolescent kids get concussions, they still suffer from "deficits in brain function and cognitive performance" two years later, the lead researcher says in a press release. Most pediatric concussions are a result of sports injuries, according to the study, which was published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. While some previous researchers have claimed only a small portion of kids suffer developmental problems after a concussion, this study highlights the potential for lifelong ill effects from early head injuries, says a researcher on the new study. Researchers looked at 30 kids aged 8 to 10, all of whom were involved in athletics. Half of them had suffered a sports-related concussion two years prior; the other half had never had a concussion.
Researchers tested the kids' memory skills and ability to pay attention and control their impulses when instructed to; they also analyzed electrical signals in the brain during some of the cognitive tests to determine how the brain performed the tasks. Children who'd had concussions did worse on the tests, and the electrical signals also showed impaired performance when compared to the other kids' brains. "The findings demonstrate that children with a history of concussion exhibit behavioral deficits in attention, working memory, and impulse control," per the study. And the differences were the worst in children who suffered concussions at the earliest ages. "Our study suggests the need to find ways to improve cognitive and brain health following a head injury," the lead researcher says. (Is it time to ban children from playing football?)