(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Despite prominence in the press about concussions because of serious football and hockey injuries and skiing deaths, researchers believe we still may not be taking this common head injury seriously enough.
Carol DeMatteo, associate clinical professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, found that children who are diagnosed with concussion spend fewer days in hospital and return to school sooner than their counterparts with head injuries diagnosed as something other than concussion.
"Even children with quite serious injuries can be labeled as having a concussion," DeMatteo was quoted as saying. "Concussion seems to be less alarming than 'mild brain injury' so it may be used to convey an injury that should have a good outcome, does not have structural brain damage and symptoms that will pass."
Despite the benign terminology, a concussion is actually a mild traumatic brain injury, which could have serious repercussions.
DeMatteo and colleagues analyzed medical records for 434 children who were admitted over two years to the McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton with the diagnosis of acquired brain injury. Of the 341 children with traumatic brain injury, 300 children had a severity score recorded and, of that group, 32 percent received a concussion diagnosis.
The researchers found that despite the severity of the injury, children with the concussion label stayed fewer days in hospital. Children labeled with concussion spent fewer days away from school and were also more than twice as likely to return to school sooner following hospital discharge.
"Our study suggests that if a child is given a diagnosis of a concussion, the family is less likely to consider it an actual injury to the brain," said DeMatteo. "These children may be sent back to school or allowed to return to activity sooner, and maybe before they should. This puts them at greater risk for a second injury, poor school performance and wondering what is wrong with them."
DeMatteo said using the term "mild traumatic brain injury" instead of "concussion" would help people to better understand what they are dealing with so that they can make decisions accordingly. Particularly, as there are no universally accepted guidelines for using the concussion diagnosis in children, she said that using more specific descriptors of brain injury should lead to more precise and informative terminology for use in both clinical and research settings.