Persistent post-concussion symptoms in children: pre-injury social difficulties and acute stress reaction as risk factors

Irit Aviv, Maayan Shorer, Silvana Fennig, Hillel Aviezer, Dana Singer-Harel, Alan Apter, Tammy Pilowsky Peleg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) children usually experience one or more somatic, cognitive, and/or emotional-behavioral post-concussion symptoms (PCS). PCS may be transient, however for some children, persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS) might linger for months or years. Identifying risk factors for PPCS may allow earlier interventions for patients at greater risk. We examined pre-injury social difficulties and acute stress reaction as risk factors to PPCS in children. Participants were 83 children (aged 8–16) with mTBI. In a prospective follow-up, pre-injury social difficulties, 24-hours post-concussion symptoms, and acute stress reactions were tested as predictors of one-week and four-months PCS reports. Parents’ reports, self-reports, and neurocognitive tests were employed. One-week PCS level was associated with acute stress, and not with 24-hours post-concussion symptoms or pre-injury social difficulties. Four-months PCS level was predicted by pre-injury social difficulties and 24-hours post-concussion symptoms, with no contribution of acute stress. Interestingly, less symptoms at 24-hour from injury were associated with a higher level of PCS at four months. Cognitive functioning at four months was predicted by acute stress, with no contribution of 24-hours post-concussion symptoms or pre-injury social difficulties. Cognitive functioning did not differ between children with and without PPCS. In conclusion, non-injury, socio-emotional factors (pre-injury social difficulties, acute stress) should be considered, alongside injury-related factors, in predicting recovery from mTBI. Pre-injury social difficulties and stress reaction to the traumatic event might pose an emotional burden and limit one’s social support during recovery, thus require clinical attention in children following mTBI.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Neuropsychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)
  • persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS)
  • social difficulties
  • stress reaction

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