Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Children

Christine Narad Mason, DNP, C-PNP


Pediatr Nurs. 2013;39(6):267-272. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in childhood, especially those related to participation in sports and recreation activities, are receiving increased public awareness. Research is beginning to show that even mild TBIs (mTBIs) may not be mild at all, and could have serious long-term effects on the health, behavior, and cognitive abilities of children. With the development of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's TBI tools for professionals, a more evidenced and systematic way is available to help recognize and manage mTBI. New research on predictor values showing that symptoms may not be the best way to assess the severity of mTBI will help to change how mTBIs are managed in the future.


Recent media attention has increased awareness of the long-term impact of concussions on athletes following the recent $765 million settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and 18,000 retired football players with long-term concussive-related injuries (ESPN, 2012). Consequently, more attention is focused on the impact of concussions for children, adolescents, and young adults. Most health care providers understand and are concerned about how traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in children can affect school performance, behavior, and general health and well-being. Longer-term impact of repeated concussions on children – disorders, including Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or psychiatric diagnoses, such as depression and anxiety – may not be an immediate concern. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a common occurrence in pediatric patients, with consequences for shortand long-term sequelae (Rapp & Curley, 2012) and potentially significant mortality and morbidity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013).

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) defines TBI as an acquired brain injury caused by sudden trauma resulting in damage to the brain tissue. There are three categories of TBI: mild, moderate, and severe (NINDS, 2013). The focus of this article will be on the evaluation and management of traumatic brain injuries in the mild category.