Purpose of review: According to recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, the annual incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States is 1.6–3.2 million, of which the majority is classified as mild. Over half of these injuries occur in the pediatric population, and can often be attributed to a sports-related mechanism. Although postconcussion symptoms are usually short-lived, more lasting deficits can occur, which can be particularly disruptive to the developing brain. Recent literature detailing the pathophysiology of mild TBI (mTBI), with attention to pediatric studies, is presented.
Recent findings: Although concussion generally does not produce any structural damage on conventional computed tomography (CT) or MRI, advanced neuroimaging modalities reveal microstructural and functional neurobiological changes. Diffuse axonal injury, metabolic impairment, alterations in neural activation and cerebral blood flow perturbations can occur and may contribute to acute symptomatology. Although these physiological changes usually recover to baseline in 7–10 days, sustaining recurrent injury before full recovery may increase the potential for persistent deficits.
Summary: Understanding the pathophysiology of concussion in the pediatric population can potentially open therapeutic avenues to decrease symptom persistence and prevent further injury. Future studies in the pediatric population are necessary given the pathophysiologic differences between the developing and adult brains.