Girls More Prone Than Boys to Headaches After Head Injury

MONDAY Dec. 5, 2011 -- Children who suffer head trauma can experience headaches months after the injury, with girls more apt to have them than boys, a new study finds.

The researchers also found that the risk of having these headaches was greater after a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) than after a moderate or severe one.

The study, published online Dec. 5 in the journal Pediatrics, included children aged 5 to 17 who were hospitalized with traumatic brain injury at nine facilities in King County in Washington state and one in Philadelphia.

Three months after treatment, headaches were reported by 43 percent of children who had a mild TBI, 37 percent of those who had a moderate to severe TBI, and 26 percent of children in a control group who'd suffered broken arms but no head trauma.

The researchers also assessed the children one year after they were hospitalized and didn't find any significant differences in headaches between the groups.

Teens and girls appear to have the highest risk for headache after mild TBI, and the course of recovery after such events is likely affected by age, injury severity and gender, the researchers concluded.

The authors noted that more than half a million children in the United States suffer a TBI each year.

"Little research has focused on chronic headache post-TBI in children," Dr. Heidi Blume, of the Seattle Children's Research Institute, said in an institute news release. "The prevalence of headache following mild TBI appear to follow a pattern we see in primary headache disorders such as a migraine."

She said the research will examine similarities between TBI and migraine, including a look at whether "migraine therapies will work for post-traumatic headaches."

In the meantime, "what parents need to know is that some children with TBI may have headaches for several weeks or months after TBI, but that most recover with time," Blume said. "And significantly, girls and teenagers appear to be at particular risk for headaches after mild TBI. Parents should be aware of what to expect after mild TBI, and that includes TBI for sports-related injuries."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about traumatic brain injury.

Posted: December 2011


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