This study investigates whether acute treatment with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or both is associated with resolution of headache or reduction of headache pain at 7 days post-concussion in children and youth.
A secondary analysis of the Predicting and Preventing Post-concussive Problems in Pediatrics (5P) prospective cohort study was conducted. Individuals aged 5–18 years with acute concussion presenting to nine Canadian pediatric emergency departments (ED) were enrolled from August 2013 to June 2015. The primary outcome was the presence of headache at 7 days, measured using the Post-Concussion Symptom Inventory. The association between acute administration of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or both and headache presence at 7 days was investigated with propensity scores and adjusted multivariate regression models.
2277 (74.3%) of 3063 participants had headache upon ED presentation. Of these participants, 1543 (67.8%) received an analgesic medication before or during their ED visit [ibuprofen 754 (33.1%), acetaminophen 445 (19.5%), both 344 (15.1%); or no medication 734 (32.2%)]. Multivariate analysis pertained to 1707 participants with propensity scores based on personal characteristics and symptoms; 877 (51.4%) reported headache at 7 days post-concussion. No association emerged between treatment and presence of headache at 7 days [ibuprofen vs. untreated: (relative risk (RR) = 1.12 (95% CI 0.99,1.26); acetaminophen vs untreated RR = 1.02 (95% CI 0.87,1.22); both vs untreated RR = 1.02 (95% CI 0.86,1.18)].
Exposure to ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or both in the acute phase does not decrease the risk of headache at 7 days post-concussion. Non-opioid analgesics like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be prescribed for short-term headache relief but clinicians need to be cautious with long-term medication overuse in those whose headache symptoms persist.
Scientist CHEO Research Institute
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute