Young children who suffer a concussion are likely to have vision and balance problems, according to a new study.
"Since one-third of pediatric and adolescent concussion injuries occur in elementary school-age children, we set out to provide a comprehensive description of children ages 5 to 11 years who were diagnosed with a concussion to pinpoint opportunities to improve the quality of diagnosis and care for this age group," said lead author Dr. Christina Master. She's a sports medicine pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
For the study, Master's team collected data on more than 1,500 patients who were diagnosed with a concussion. The researchers found that vision and balance problems were as common among these 5- to 11-year-olds as they are in teens.
Yet, assessments of vision and balance weren't routinely done in younger children, the investigators found.
About two-thirds of the patients studied reported vision and balance problems. In all, 74 percent of patients had an assessment at some point. Among them, 63 percent had issues, the study authors noted in a hospital news release.
But only 44 percent of parents were given a concussion recovery plan to inform their child's school about needed accommodations, such as taking breaks for symptoms, the use of larger print or audio books, or extra time for assignments.
Most patients (95 percent) seen only in the emergency room were not given school instructions, the study found.
In addition, only 56 percent of patients were given letters of clearance to resume play, gym class or other recreational activities.
Master noted that 5- to 11-year-olds had rates of vision and balance problems comparable to those of older kids. Doctors know that teens who have these issues are at higher risk for persistent symptoms and poorer outcomes, she added.
"Our older youth really benefit from early intervention in the form of school accommodations, return to school and physical activity plans, and vestibular or vision therapy," Master said. "We believe intervening early can also improve outcomes for younger children diagnosed with visio-vestibular [vision and balance] deficits."
The findings were published online June 4 in The Journal of Pediatrics.
To learn more about concussion in kids, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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