Post-traumatic Headache After Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Association With Neurocognitive Outcomes

Blake McConnell, Tyler Duffield, Trevor Hall, Juan Piantino, Dylan Seitz, Daniel Soden, Cydni Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Post-traumatic headache is common after pediatric traumatic brain injury and affects thousands of children every year, but little is known about how headache affects recovery after traumatic brain injury in other symptom domains. We aimed to determine the association between headache and other common symptoms after pediatric traumatic brain injury and explore whether subjective complaints of headache are associated with objective deficits on specialized neurocognitive testing. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of children ages 3-19 years following traumatic brain injury with a completed Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) questionnaire. Post-traumatic headache was defined by a score more than 2 on the SCAT question for headache and define headache groups for comparison. In our cohort, we analyzed data from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, Second Edition (WASI-II). Headache was reported in 40 (33%) patients presenting for post-traumatic brain injury care among 121 pediatric traumatic brain injury patients and did not differ by injury severity. Median total SCAT symptom score in the headache group was 5-fold higher compared to patients without headache (median 45.5 vs 9; P <.001). Significantly lower-scaled scores in color naming, matrix reasoning, letter sequencing, and letter switching were also found in the headache group (all P ≤.03). Our study shows that headache, as reported by patients on the SCAT, is associated with higher symptom scores in all other symptom domains, including sleep, mood, sensory, and cognitive. Headache was also associated with worse objective neurocognitive measures and may identify patients who could benefit from specialized follow-up care and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of child neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • cognition
  • concussion
  • headache
  • outcome
  • pediatric
  • risk factor
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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