Among children, traumatic brain injury (TBI), also commonly known as concussion, can negatively impact school performance, mental health, social skills, and reasoning abilities. While these consequences are well-documented and have informed comprehensive rehabilitation plans for adolescents, researchers remain uncertain whether these symptoms continue into adulthood even after the initial head injury has resolved. Studies that have investigated this issue typically compare outcomes among patients with moderate-to-severe head injuries against those with mild cases, which can be ineffective because even mild TBI can still cause significant impairment and poor outcomes.
To gain a better understanding of long-term risks in all pediatric head trauma patients, a research study using interviews with 119 adults who had experienced a concussion before age 18 compared outcomes to interviews with a group of 42 people without any history of childhood concussions. Researchers measured education levels, employment outcomes, recipiency of government benefits, and material standards of living—all factors that can measure quality of life. The interviews revealed that:
• When the two groups were compared, all participants with a history of childhood head trauma had poorer outcomes in every area except employment.
• Level of injury severity influenced outcomes. Participants with prior moderate-to-severe concussions had lower-income jobs, lower educational attainment in both adolescence and adulthood, and significantly more time spent on illness and receiving unemployment benefits.
• There were no major differences in material standards of living between all groups, likely due to the young age of participants.
The results of this study demonstrate the need to seriously consider long-term impacts of any concussions sustained at a young age. Health care providers should be especially mindful of the severity of injury when considering rehabilitation efforts, and early intervention and follow-up procedures should be flexible to age-specific needs to mitigate any negative effects later in life. Education systems may also benefit from establishing support systems, bolstering early intervention capacity, and directly aiding education-specific problems among students with TBI. These efforts would minimize later-life gaps among young people hindered by concussion-related complications early in life.
De Netto R, McKinlay A. Impact of childhood traumatic brain injury on educational outcomes and adult standard of living. Disability and Rehabilitation. (June 2019).