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Canadian study says concussions don’t affect kids’ intelligence

University of Calgary-led research finds there doesn’t appear to be an alteration in a kid’s IQ
Dr. Keith Yeates, a neuropsychologist at the University of Calgary, poses in this undated handout photo. Yeates has a study published in the online medical journal Pediatrics that says kids who suffer concussions don’t suffer a drop in IQ. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - University of Calgary, Riley Brandt

A University of Calgary-led study has some positive news for parents whose children have suffered concussions, finding kids’ intelligence is not affected by the brain injury.

The research, published in the medical journal Pediatrics on Monday, is drawn from emergency room visits to U.S. and Canadian children’s hospitals.

“Parents are always asking ‘what’s going to happen to my kid?’ There’s a lot of worry out there right now,” said Dr. Keith Yeates, a professor in the university’s psychology department and senior author of the Pediatrics paper.

“People are really worried about concussion and it is nice to be able to give parents some good news, in that there doesn’t appear to be an alteration in a kid’s IQ or intellectual ability as a consequence of these injuries.”

Yeates is an expert on the outcomes of childhood brain disorders, including concussion and traumatic brain injury. He was involved in two previous studies that provided the data for the latest research.

“We included IQ tests because they are a pretty standard outcome and we wanted to be able to describe our sample and we realized, ‘Jeez, we can actually address this and put the concern to bed a bit.’”

The study compared 566 children diagnosed with concussion to 300 with orthopedic injuries, or those to the musculoskeletal system. The children ranged in age from eight to 16 and they were recruited from the two previous studies.

The children with orthopedic injuries were included as a comparison group to factor in other variables that might affect IQ, such as demographic background and experiences with trauma and pain.

The Canadian data was collected from children’s hospitals’ emergency rooms in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal between 2016 and 2019.

In the Canadian hospitals, patients completed IQ tests three months after their injuries.

The U.S. cohort was studied at two children’s hospitals in Ohio, where patients completed IQ tests three to 18 days post-injury.

Yeates said those in the study were generally not hospitalized, nor would there be any sign of injury with imaging of the brain.

But they are injuries nonetheless, Yeates said.

“These concussions are the sorts of injuries that athletes get, that everyday people get by slipping on the ice and falling and hitting their head,” he said.

“It’s not that concussion has no negative effects. But it didn’t effect IQ, even when many of them were still struggling with a number of the issues that can occur from concussion.”

Yeates said a concussion is different than severe or moderate traumatic brain injury, which can lower someone’s IQ.

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