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Study: Children may suffer long-term effects of brain injuries

Previously, doctors and researchers believed that young children were better able to recover from traumatic brain injuries than older children and adults, due largely to the "plastic" nature of a young child's brain as it continues to develop. According to a new study, however, that may not be the case.

The study tracked 56 children, all of whom had sustained a traumatic brain injury between the ages of 2 and 7, for 10 years following their injury, examining their intellectual abilities, social skills and behavior. After the completion of the study, researchers reportedly found that many children who suffer a brain trauma end up dealing with lasting effects and deficiencies caused by the incident, a significant departure from previous thinking on the subject.

Notably, children who sustain a brain injury do continue to recover over time, researchers said, which means that treatment may be effective months and even years after the incident. However, the study uncovered no way to predict which children end up with a more complete recovery, and which feel the effects throughout their lives.

They did find that children who had a "quality home environment and access to appropriate rehabilitation" are less likely to suffer long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury than children who do not have access to rehab.

In addition, researchers believe that the type of brain injury significantly affects the child's recovery. Specifically, if the whole brain is involved in the injury, with ripping and twisting of multiple connections, the damage is more likely to be long-lasting. But if the injury is isolated, the child has a better chance at a full recovery, researchers said.

Source: MSNBC, "Kids' brain injuries can cause lingering problems for years, study finds," Linda Carroll, Jan. 23, 2012

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