Does analgesic overuse contribute to chronic post-traumatic headaches in adolescent concussion patients?

Pediatr Neurol. 2014 May;50(5):464-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2014.01.040. Epub 2014 Jan 24.


Background: The causes of persistent headache following concussion are poorly understood. The objective of this study is to explore analgesic overuse as a potential cause of chronic post-traumatic headache among adolescents referred to a headache clinic following concussion.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of all adolescent concussion patients referred to our pediatric headache clinic over the 16-month period between August 1, 2011, and November 30, 2012. Those patients with chronic post-traumatic headaches of 3-12 months' duration who also met International Headache Society criteria for probable medication-overuse headache were identified. Demographic data, concussion symptoms, and headache features were characterized from the initial evaluation and from follow-up visits.

Results: Of 104 adolescent concussion patients referred during the study period, 77 had chronic post-traumatic headache of 3-12 months' duration. Fifty-four of 77 (70.1%) met criteria for probable medication-overuse headache. Only simple analgesics were overused. Thirty-seven patients (68.5%) had resolution of headaches or improvements to preconcussion headache patterns after discontinuing analgesics; seven (13%) had no change in headaches or worsening of headaches after discontinuing analgesics and 10 (18.5%) did not discontinue analgesics or were lost to follow-up.

Conclusion: Excessive use of analgesics postconcussion may contribute to chronic post-traumatic headaches in some adolescents. Management of patients with chronic post-traumatic headache should include analgesic detoxification when medication overuse is suspected.

Keywords: TBI; adolescent; concussion; medication-overuse headache; pediatric; post-traumatic headache.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / adverse effects*
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / chemically induced*
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics