Higher parental stress is significantly related to longer clinical recovery times in concussed children: A mixed-methods study

J Sci Med Sport. 2021 Aug 20:S1440-2440(21)00213-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2021.08.014. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: Parental stress and anxiety negatively influences a child’s recovery following traumatic brain injury, but these relationships are largely unexplored in a concussion-specific sample. We hypothesized that children with parents experiencing high stress or with pre-existing anxiety would take significantly longer to recover from concussion.

DESIGN: Mixed-methods.

METHODS: Forty-nine concussed children (13.8 ± 2.3 years, nfemales = 27) and their parents were recruited. Quantitative data were collected using the Perceived Stress Scale (10-item). Qualitative data (n = 12) were collected through a semi-structured interview with the parent. Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox proportional hazard models analyzed the effect of parental stress and anxiety on time in clinic (days between clinic presentation and discharge) and recovery time (days between concussion and clinic discharge). Thematic analysis was used to analyze interview data.

RESULTS: Parental anxiety was not significantly related to either the child’s time in clinic (P = 0.27) or recovery time (P = 0.41). Conversely, higher perceived parental stress was related to longer recovery time (Hazard Ratio: 2.162, 95% CI: 1.075, 4.348; p = 0.03) for the injured child, with similar results for time in clinic (Hazard Ratio: 1.883, 95% CI: 0.966, 3.668, p = 0.06). During the interview, parents expressed their stress was directly tied to their child’s symptoms and overall functioning and varied throughout recovery.

CONCLUSIONS: Recovery time is significantly longer in concussed children whose parents are experiencing higher levels of stress, but not pre-existing anxiety, following injury. Parental stress varies throughout recovery, with stress generally higher in the acute post-injury period. Clinicians should monitor parental stress post-concussion when possible.

PMID:34518082 | DOI:10.1016/j.jsams.2021.08.014

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