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Concussions: In Children and Youth

While concussions are notable and worrisome at any age, research suggests that children and youth experience a greater risk of concussions following injury and if they do recover, they take longer than adults to recover.

Following a motor vehicle accident, fall, sports event involving injury or other traumatic event, it is important to look for common concussion-related symptoms and act quickly on seeking out appropriate treatment. Following a car accident, appropriate ICBC benefits including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and neuropsychological supports should be available.

A fulsome study with key findings about the concussions in children and youth can be found at: Rajabali F, Turcotte K, Pike I, Babul S. Concussion among Children and Youth in British Columbia: An Update. Vancouver, BC: BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit; 2016.

The following is noted by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit about concussions:

Concussion causes changes in brain function including information processing, attention, and executive functioning. Symptoms of this altered mental status can include confusion, loss of memory directly preceding the event, sensitivity to light, slurred speech, dizziness and emotional changes. It is a misconception that loss of consciousness must occur in order to sustain a concussion.

The symptoms of concussion can be subtle and may not appear for hours or several days. Individuals may experience many different signs and symptoms ranging from physical, cognitive, emotional and sleep-related disturbances. While 70 to 80 per cent of concussions resolve within seven to ten days, recovery time is usually longer for children and youth. This may be due to their brains not being fully matured, and concussion can permanently change the way a child or youth talks, walks, learns, works and interacts with others.

The current recommended treatment is physical and cognitive rest for up to three days as needed, followed by gradually resuming activity as tolerated. Active and timely rehabilitation is essential for concussion patients who remain symptomatic longer than six weeks, and may include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, educational support, neuropsychology, and in some cases neuropsychiatry. It is important to note that an individual is 3-times more likely to sustain a subsequent concussion while in recovery from a previous concussion. Also, while rare, a condition known as second-impact syndrome (SIS) may occur if a subsequent injury to the brain is sustained within a day or two of the previous concussion event, resulting in a swelling of the brain that can result in brain damage, severe disability and even death. Key findings of the study over 12 years included: Concussion highlights from 2001/02 to 2013/14 include but are not limited to the following:

There were 2,539 concussion hospitalizations due to unintentional injuries among children and youth ages 0 to 19 years who reside within BC.

Male children and youth in BC had more than twice the rate of concussion hospitalizations as females (27.1/100,000 vs. 12.6/100,000).

The leading causes of child and youth concussion hospitalizations in BC were due to falls (43%, n=1,093) and transport-related events (39%, n=993).


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