Childhood Brain Injuries, Concussions Linked to Risk of Depression: Study

New research highlights the link between the effects of head traumas among children and depression, finding that children who suffered some sort of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion may face a nearly fivefold increase in the risk of being diagnosed with depression.

The study was presented last week at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, involving a review of data for more than 2,000 children with brain injuries.

While much attention has been focused on the effects of brain injuries and the potential link to cognitive impairment and depression, little research has been done on the effects among children.

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Researchers used data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, finding a national childhood brain injury rate of 1.9% and a national depression rate among children of 3.7%. The study found that more than 15% of children who suffered some type of brain injury or concussion were also diagnosed with depression, suggesting a 4.9 times increased risk.

The study, titled “Depression in Children Diagnosed with Brain Injury or Concussion”, was the largest conducted to focus on the association between brain injury and depression in children and adolescents. The research suggests that children are just as likely to suffer from depression after undergoing brain injury as adults.

Adults Focus of Most TBI Research

A study published last month found a single traumatic brain injury can significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The brain injury can involve minor or severe trauma, but may result in a heightened predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in 2010 found people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. In fact, according to the findings, more than half of all serious head injuries result in depression.

These findings are of particular importance considering a study from 2011 found traumatic brain injury in young athletes increased by 60% over the last decade. Minors account for 65% of all sports-related emergency department visits from concussions and other TBIs.

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability worldwide. Nearly 2 million people suffer from head traumas each year.

The recent findings on brain injuries and the link to depression may mean better diagnosis and treatment for children who have suffered traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries suffered by children often are the result of falls and automobile accidents.

Many children and adolescents suffer a TBI after undergoing sports-related head injuries in football and other contact sports. Other potential activities which may pose a risk of TBI may include bicycling, playground activities, basketball and soccer.

Experts recommend increasing awareness of TBI risks from sports and employing proper protective techniques, including protective equipment and quickly responding to injuries.

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