As if there weren’t enough reasons to ensure your child gets the best treatment after a traumatic brain injury, new research suggests there may be a link between childhood TBIs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Researchers also note that symptoms of ADHD may not appears for up to a decade after the original head injury.
As we’ve noted on the blog in the past, head injuries have been linked to an increased risk of mental problems, like depression or anxiety. But according to this new study, children who suffer head injuries may be more likely to develop ADHD down the road. The study claims that roughly 1 in 5 children who’ve suffered a TBI will develop ADHD within a few years, although it may take much longer in some cases.
“Children with a history of TBI, even those with less severe injuries, have an increased risk for the development of new-onset attention problems, potentially many years after injury,” said Megan Narad, PhD, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “While previous studies suggest kids with a history of TBI are at risk for developing attention problems, they only followed kids two to three years after injury. Our study is unique in that we followed children 7 to 10 years after their injury.”
TBI and ADHD
For the study, researchers followed 187 children with no prior history of ADHD who were hospitalized due to TBI or other trauma, like fractures or broken bones. Children in the study were between 3 and 7 years old at the time of hospitalization, and parents were responsible for completing behavioral assessments at the time of the injury and every six months going forward.
Out of 187 children, 48 eventually met the criteria for secondary ADHD, which is more than 25 percent of the group. According to researchers, that represented a more than four-fold increase in eventual ADHD risk compared to a child who did not suffer a TBI. Even if kids appear to no longer be dealing with symptoms of their head injuries, risk of secondary acquired ADHD may still exist.
Dr. Narad hopes the findings will encourage parents and doctors to be more diligent about monitoring children after a TBI and ensuring the child fully recovers before resuming physical activities.
If your child has suffered head injuries in the past, talk to your doctor or a nuerospecialist about ways to manage the head injury and the role behavioral therapy may play in the equation. For more information, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.