Teens are more sensitive to the effects of a sport-related concussion than adults and may suffer more severe memory problems as a result, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Montreal said regions of the brains adolescents associated with learning are more vulnerable to concussion-related injuries because they are still developing. As a result, such injuries may significantly affect their working memory – the ability to process and store information essential for reading and mental calculation.
"The frontal regions of the brain are more vulnerable to concussions,” said Dr. Dave Ellemberg Ellemberg, a neuropsychologist with the university's Department of Kinesiology. “These areas oversee executive functions responsible for planning, organizing and managing information. During adolescence, these functions are developing rapidly which makes them more fragile to stress and trauma."
The new study, published in the journal Brain Injury, found that a concussion will result in six months to a year of side effects – including impacts on working memory, the ability to sustain attention and focus.
Ellemberg’s findings were based on an analysis of 96 athletes, a third of whom were adults.
"For a long time, we believed that the brain of a child was more plastic and could therefore better recover from an accident or stress," said Ellemberg. "In recent years, we've realized that quite to the contrary, a child's brain is more vulnerable."