There Are No 'Mild Concussions' When Kids Are Involved.
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"During a child's development, there are critical windows of opportunity where the brain needs to be exposed to a particular type of stimulus in order to evolve or develop specific kinds of functions, and that length of time is different for different kinds of functions," Hovda tells WebMD.
Nearly all brain specialists and experts in child development agree that the brains of children are much more adaptable and open to experience than those of adults, under normal circumstances. But whether kids' brains remain plastic after sustaining an injury is unclear.
Furthermore, a neurosurgeon who has seen firsthand the effects of brain injuries on children says that the effects of some apparently minor brain injuries may not be seen for weeks or months after the initial accident.
"What we see is, even with mild to moderate concussions, that kids are often coming back a couple of months later, and their parents' complaint is that they're not getting the same grades in school, they just can't seem to focus, they can't concentrate. So even with minor concussions, problems in school or problems with behavior are real, cardinal signs that something more has gone on following from their injury," says David Adelson, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh. He was not involved in the study.
In the report, the UCLA researchers studied rats that had sustained mild concussions and found that even when the injured young animals -- the equivalent of 5- to 7-year-old children -- are raised in a highly stimulating environment, injuries to the front part of the brain harmed their ability to learn from new experiences, compared with their normal littermates.
Also, the researchers found that the normal animals raised in the stimulating environment had significantly greater thickening of the part of the brain responsible for higher intellectual functions than did the brain-injured animals or the animals raised in standard lab-rat digs.
All three physicians interviewed by WebMD recommend that parents or caretakers of children who sustain any kind of injury that causes confusion, dizziness, or even a momentary loss of consciousness, or who vomit or feel nauseous after such an injury, should have the child seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
"There still needs to be, we believe, some time -- how much time we don't have a clear understanding, but the general consensus is that a week is a good period of time - after symptoms alleviate before the child should go back in to play," Hovda tells WebMD.