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Traumatic Brain Injury Commonly Causes Headache in Girls and Adolescents

Girls who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to have headaches following the injury than boys, according to a recent study. Adolescents are also more likely to have headaches following such an injury compared to younger children.

For this study, which appeared online last month in the journal Pediatrics, researchers evaluated the prevalence of headache three and 12 months after mild, moderate and severe TBI in more than 400 children ages 5 to 17.

Children who were mildly injured were the most likely to experience headaches. Forty-three percent of children reported headaches three months after a mild TBI compared to 37% of children who had experienced moderate to severe TBI and 26% of children in a control group. Girls were more likely than boys to report headache, with 59% of the girls who had a minor TBI reporting them. The risk of headache also increased with age. No differences were found in the frequency of headache compared to the control group one year after the injury.

Study authors concluded that recovery from TBI—which includes concussions as the most common type of the injury—differs according to gender, age and severity of injury.

“Little research has focused on chronic headache post-TBI in children,” said lead researcher Heidi Blume, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute and a University of Washington assistant professor of neurology. “Our findings indicate that many children and adolescents suffer from TBI-associated headaches yearly. In addition, the prevalence of headache following mild TBI appears to follow a pattern we see in primary headache disorders such as a migraine. With future research, we can begin to examine whether there are similarities in the cause of migraine and post-traumatic headache, and if migraine therapies will work for post-traumatic headaches.”

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