Use of term "concussion" in emergency settings called into question

February 1, 2010

When the medical diagnosis of "concussion" is given to explain injuries in children, it may be misleading to parents and physicians, causing them not to realize the potential severity of brain injuries in children, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

When the medical diagnosis of "concussion" is given to explain injuries in children, it may be misleading to parents and physicians, causing them not to realize the potential severity of brain injuries in children, according to research published in the February 2010 issue of Pediatrics.

The study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, showed that children who are given a concussion diagnosis are released from the hospital earlier than those diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries. These children often return to school sooner, even when the injury is outside the mild range.

Carol DeMatteo, MSc, lead author of the study and associate professor in McMaster's School of Rehabilitation Science, says that the term "mild traumatic brain injury" might more clearly explain to parents the extent of the injury.

Although kids who had milder injuries, based on standardized diagnostic criteria, were more likely to be diagnosed with concussion, not all children who scored at the mild end of the spectrum got that diagnosis. Significantly, 24% of children with moderate or severe scores using that tool were documented as having a concussion.