Parents can rest easy: No link has been found between child concussions and IQ
In a major reassurance for anxious parents, a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics reveals that pediatric concussions do not impact children’s intelligence quotient (IQ) or cognition in any clinically significant manner. The University of Calgary spearheaded the study, which analyzed data from emergency room visits in children’s hospitals in Canada and the United States.
The research involved 566 children diagnosed with concussion and 300 with orthopedic injuries, aged between eight to 16 years. The Canadian data included patients from five children’s hospitals, including Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Montreal (CHU Sainte-Justine), who completed IQ tests three months post-injury. The American cohort underwent IQ tests three to 18 days post-injury at two children’s hospitals in Ohio.
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Dr. Keith Yeates, the paper’s senior author and a leading expert on childhood brain disorder outcomes, including concussion and traumatic brain injuries, commented, “The data on this has been mixed, and opinions have varied within the medical community. It’s hard to collect big enough samples to confirm a negative finding. The absence of a difference in IQ after concussion is harder to prove than the presence of a difference.”
The combination of Canadian and American samples provided a comprehensive demographic and clinical range. The researchers assessed various factors such as socioeconomic status, patient sex, severity of injuries, concussion history, and whether there was a loss of consciousness at the time of injury.
“We looked at socioeconomic status, patient sex, severity of injuries, concussion history, and whether there was a loss of consciousness at the time of injury,” Yeates shared. “None of these factors made a difference. Across the board, concussion was not associated with lower IQ.”
The comparison group involved children with orthopedic injuries unrelated to concussion. This approach helped control other factors that could impact IQ, such as demographic background and the experience of trauma and pain.
Dr. Ashley Ware, the lead author of the paper and a professor at Georgia State University, said that sharing the findings with parents is crucial. Dr. Stephen Freedman, a co-author of the paper and professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine, concurred, emphasizing the reassurance that this information can bring. “It’s something doctors can tell children who have sustained a concussion, and their parents, to help reduce their fears and concerns,” Freedman said. “It is certainly reassuring to know that concussions do not lead to alterations in IQ or intelligence.”
The study’s design, incorporating two cohort studies examining patients at different stages post-injury, further strengthens the findings. Ware remarked, “We can demonstrate that even in those first days and weeks after concussion, when children do show symptoms such as pain and slow processing speed, there’s no hit to their IQs. Then it’s the same story three months out, when most children have recovered from their concussion symptoms. Thanks to this study, we can say that, consistently, we would not expect IQ to be diminished from when children are symptomatic to when they’ve recovered.”
In summing up the study’s implications, Ware said: “It’s a nice ‘rest easy’ message for the parents.”
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