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Published: September 12, 2023

Why Pediatric Concussions Are a Major Concern and Their Impact on IQ

Pediatric concussions are a significant concern due to their prevalence and the potential long-term consequences they may have on a child's intellectual functioning. In this article, we will explore why pediatric concussions are a major concern and examine their impact on IQ. By analyzing data from two prospective cohort studies, we aim to shed light on the long-term outcomes of pediatric concussions. Participants, aged 8-16 years, were recruited shortly after their head injury and underwent follow-up assessments at various intervals.

What is Pediatric Concussion?

A pediatric concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that typically occurs in children and adolescents, often due to a blow or jolt to the head during sports or accidents. It can result in temporary cognitive and physical symptoms like headache, dizziness, and confusion. Prompt medical evaluation and rest are crucial for a full recovery, as repeated concussions can have long-term consequences on a child's developing brain.

Why Are Pediatric Concussions Concerning?

Pediatric concussions are concerning because they occur frequently and can have long-lasting effects on a child's brain development. Children's brains are still developing, and any injury to the brain can disrupt this process.

Concussions can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulties with concentration and memory. These symptoms can interfere with a child's ability to learn and perform well in school.

It is important to seek medical attention from a neurologist concussion specialist if a child experiences a concussion, as they can provide guidance on appropriate management and monitor for any potential long-term effects on IQ and cognitive functioning.

Risk Factors and Prevalence

Pediatric concussions can be caused by various risk factors. These include age, sex, previous concussion history, and certain clinical features. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for identifying and preventing concussions in children.

Risk factors for concussion

When discussing risk factors for concussion, it's important to consider the various factors that can contribute to the occurrence of these injuries in children. Some common risk factors for pediatric concussions include:

Age: Younger children, particularly those between the ages of 8 and 12, are at a higher risk due to their developing brains and limited coordination.

Sex: Boys tend to have a higher incidence of concussions compared to girls.

Previous concussion history: Children with a history of previous concussions are more prone to experiencing concussions.

Migraine history: Children with a history of migraines are also at a higher risk of experiencing concussions.

It's important to be aware of these risk factors in order to take appropriate measures to prevent and manage concussions in pediatric populations.

Prevalence of pediatric concussions

The prevalence of concussions in children is a significant issue that warrants further investigation and understanding. It is estimated that millions of children in North America are affected by concussions, making it a major concern.

Impact on cognitive abilities

Millions of children in North America are affected by concussions, but research shows that concussions do not have a long-term effect on intelligence. A study conducted on pediatric concussion and mild orthopedic injury (OI) groups found no clinically meaningful differences in IQ scores between the two groups. The study used data from two prospective cohort studies, including participants aged 8-16.99 years.

Symptoms and Diagnosis in Pediatric Concussion

In diagnosing pediatric concussion, there are often challenges due to the subjective nature of symptoms and the lack of objective tests. The variability in symptoms experienced by children can further complicate the diagnostic process, as symptoms can range from physical to cognitive and emotional.

Understanding the long-term prognosis of pediatric concussion is crucial, as it can help guide appropriate management and support for children and their families.

Diagnostic challenges

Given what you already know, you might be wondering about the challenges involved in diagnosing pediatric concussions. Diagnosing concussions in children can be difficult due to several factors. First, symptoms of concussion can be nonspecific and overlap with other conditions, making it challenging to distinguish a concussion from other injuries or illnesses.

Second, children may not always report their symptoms accurately or may have difficulty expressing their symptoms, especially if they are very young.

Third, there is currently no definitive diagnostic test for concussion, so healthcare providers must rely on a combination of clinical assessment, symptom reporting, and medical history.

Overall, diagnosing pediatric concussions requires careful evaluation and consideration of multiple factors to ensure accurate identification and appropriate management of these injuries.

Symptom variability

Due to the inherent variability of symptoms, accurately assessing and managing pediatric concussions can be a complex task for healthcare providers. One of the challenges in diagnosing pediatric concussions is the wide range of symptoms that can occur. Children may experience a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms, including headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and changes in sleep patterns. 

Long-term prognosis in Pediatric Concussion

Being a parent or caregiver of a child who has suffered a concussion can be worrisome, especially when it comes to their long-term recovery and prognosis. Naturally, you may be concerned about the potential impact of the concussion on your child's future cognitive abilities, such as their IQ. However, current research offers some reassurance.

A recent study on pediatric concussions discovered no evidence of clinically meaningful differences in IQ scores after a concussion, when compared to children with mild orthopedic injuries. This study was conducted with a large sample of children and utilized rigorous methodology to address previous limitations.

The findings from this study suggest that there is strong evidence against reduced intelligence in the first few weeks to months after a concussion. It is important to keep in mind that IQ is just one aspect of overall cognitive functioning. Even children with concussions can still have successful long-term outcomes in multiple domains. With this information, parents and caregivers can have a better understanding of the long-term prognosis for pediatric concussion and can feel more confident in their child's recovery.

Impact on Intellectual Functioning

Pediatric concussions can have a significant impact on intellectual functioning. This was demonstrated by a study that compared IQ scores after concussion to those after mild orthopedic injuries. The study aimed to assess the long-term prognosis of pediatric concussions and their effect on intellectual functioning using IQ tests. The results of the study showed that there were small group differences in full-scale IQ and matrix reasoning. However, there were no differences in vocabulary scores. Interestingly, the study also found that IQ scores were not related to previous concussion, clinical features, injury mechanism, or symptom ratings.

Bayesian models provided moderate to very strong evidence against group differences in IQ scores. Additionally, multigroup factor analysis demonstrated equivalence in IQ test structure and latent variable means between the concussion and orthopedic injury groups. Based on these findings, it can be concluded that pediatric concussion does not lead to reduced intelligence in the first few weeks to months after the injury.

Implications for Future Research

Now that you understand the impact of pediatric concussions on intellectual functioning, it's important to consider the implications for future research. The current studies have addressed the methodological limitations of previous research by combining data from two prospective cohort studies. By investigating IQ score differences between children with concussion and those with mild orthopedic injuries, researchers have found no evidence of clinically meaningful differences in IQ scores after pediatric concussion. This provides strong evidence against reduced intelligence in the first few weeks to months after concussion. However, there is still a need for further research to accurately identify at-risk children and understand the long-term effects of concussions.

By exploring demographic and injury characteristics as potential moderators of IQ after concussion, future studies can contribute to our understanding of the impact of concussions on pediatric cognitive development.


In conclusion, pediatric concussions remain a significant concern within the purview of the New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute, given their widespread occurrence and potential implications for IQ. However, our research at the institute has yielded no substantial evidence indicating clinically significant deviations in IQ scores following pediatric concussions. These findings suggest that during the initial weeks to months post-injury, pediatric concussions do not seem to engender diminished cognitive abilities.

Nevertheless, the New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute underscores the imperative for further investigation. It is essential to pinpoint children at greater risk and overcome the limitations inherent in previous studies. Ongoing research efforts are paramount to comprehending the enduring consequences of pediatric concussions, thus fostering improved strategies for prevention and management.

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