Teens May Be More Vulnerable to Brain Injuries Than Others

When young people injure themselves adults often believe they will recover quickly because young adults are commonly viewed as being resilient — but the same cannot be said of teenagers who suffer sports concussions. A new study shows the brains of teenagers are more greatly affected by concussions than the brains of children or adults.

The area of the teenage brain that is most vulnerable and susceptible to damage from concussions is the prefrontal cortex, which controls the working memory. Working memory processes and stores short-term information, and is important for problem solving, reading, and managing and organizing information.

According to the professor who lead the study and was interviewed about it by NPR, the prefrontal cortex is still maturing during adolescence, which probably makes it more vulnerable to injury in teenagers than adults. The results of the study help dispel previously held beliefs about the resilience of the teenage brain. For years, parents and coaches believed that the brains of young people recovered more quickly than adults from accidents or stress. The study shows that the effects of concussions on teenagers are just as great as they are for adults.

The study also found that adults, teenagers and children who experience a concussion for the first time will suffer deficits for six to eight months after the brain injury. Not only do concussions affect a person’s working memory, but also an individual’s ability to focus for up to one year after injury. Often, neuropsychological tests are used to determine the short-term and long-term effects of concussions.

Tests used by professional, college and high school athletic teams have been found by other recent research to be ineffective in the detection of long-term consequences. Even though people who have suffered concussions perform well on standard tests, measurements obtained by electroencephalograms show the brains struggle much more than normal to execute the tasks. Therefore teenagers who suffered concussions and display no immediate symptoms may be allowed to return to activities too soon, risking further harm.

Article provided by Schuster Jachetti LLP.

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