More than half a million children in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year. In a recent study published by Pediatrics, researchers analyzed the prevalence of headaches three and 12 months after mild and moderate or severe TBI in children ages 5 to 17. Three months after a mild TBI, 43 percent of children reported headache, compared to 37 percent of children who had a moderate to severe TBI, and 26 percent of children in the control group. The risk of headache was highest in adolescents and in girls. The researchers concluded that the response to and recovery from TBI is different for children, adolescents and adults and that between boys and girls, there is a difference in symptoms and recovery from TBI.
This study is very important for several reasons. First of all, headaches in adolescents and teenagers are often ignored by parents and teachers until it has progressed to the point of disability. This study suggests early awareness and intervention. Secondly, headache disorders during this developmental period can have long term effects because teenagers can miss fundamental information in school that they will have difficulty catching up later. Lastly, undiagnosed post traumatic headache may increase risk for further damage if the teenager continues to play sports without addressing the issue.