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Franz E. Babl, Vanessa C. Rausa, Meredith L. Borland, Amit Kochar, Mark D. Lyttle, Natalie Phillips, Yuri Gilhotra, Sarah Dalton, John A. Cheek, Jeremy Furyk, Jocelyn Neutze, Silvia Bressan, Gavin A. Davis, Vicki Anderson, Amanda Williams, Ed Oakley, Stuart R. Dalziel, Louise M. Crowe, and Stephen J. C. Hearps

OBJECTIVE

Children with concussion frequently present to emergency departments (EDs). There is limited understanding of the differences in signs, symptoms, and epidemiology of concussion based on patient age. Here, the authors set out to assess the association between age and acute concussion presentations.

METHODS

The authors conducted a multicenter prospective observational study of head injuries at 10 EDs in Australia and New Zealand. They identified children aged 5 to < 18 years, presenting with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 13–15, presenting < 24 hours postinjury, with no abnormalities on CT if performed, and one or more signs or symptoms of concussion. They extracted demographic, injury-related, and signs and symptoms information and stratified it by age group (5–8, 9–12, 13 to < 18 years).

RESULTS

Of 8857 children aged 5 to < 18 years, 4709 patients met the defined concussion criteria (5–8 years, n = 1546; 9–12 years, n = 1617; 13 to < 18 years, n = 1546). The mean age of the cohort was 10.9 years, and approximately 70% of the patients were male. Sport-related concussion accounted for 43.7% of concussions overall, increasing from 19.1% to 48.9% to 63.0% in the 5–8, 9–12, and 13 to < 18 years age groups. The most common acute symptoms postinjury were headache (64.6%), disorientation (36.2%), amnesia (30.0%), and vomiting (27.2%). Vomiting decreased with increasing age and was observed in 41.7% of the 5–8 years group, 24.7% of the 9–12 years group, and 15.4% of the 13 to < 18 years group, whereas reported loss of consciousness (LOC) increased with increasing age, occurring in 9.6% in the 5–8 years group, 21.0% in the 9–12 years group, 36.7% in the 13 to < 18 years group, and 22.4% in the entire study cohort. Headache, amnesia, and disorientation followed the latter trajectory. Symptom profiles were broadly similar between males and females.

CONCLUSIONS

Concussions presenting to EDs were more sports-related as age increased. Signs and symptoms differed markedly across age groups, with vomiting decreasing and headache, LOC, amnesia, and disorientation increasing with increasing age.