Study Links Concussions to Later Mental Health Issues

Researchers found children who suffered a concussion were 40% more likely to develop mental illness than children who suffered other kinds of injuries.

There is growing evidence that highlights the serious side effects from concussions, with a new study warning that children who suffer a head trauma face an increased risk of suffering from mental health issues.

Adolescents who had no prior problems with depression, anxiety or related disorders had a 40% increased risk of developing mental health issues after a concussion, according to findings published this month in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

Canadian researchers studied 448,000 children and teens who suffered a concussion or an orthopedic injury from April 2010 through March 2020 in Ontario, Canada. The children had no previous mental health visits in the year before the event and no prior concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) within five years. The data was taken from province-wide health administrative databases.

Compared to the children and teens who were treated for an orthopedic injury, such as a broken bone, fractures, dislocations, and sprains, the adolescents who suffered a concussion had a 40% increased risk of developing a mental health issue.

Roughly 7% of children in the US have suffered a concussion. That is about one out of every 14 children in the United States. The number of teens reporting they suffered a concussion has increased in recent years, as risks linked to traumatic brain injury have become more prevalent in the media and among sports teams.

Kids and teens who sustained a concussion, like a blow to the head from a fall or collision during sports, had an increased risk of mental health issues, psychiatric hospitalization, and self-harm. The study focused on teens and children ages 5 to 18 years old. There was no increased risk of death by suicide.

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The incidence rate of mental health problems was 11,141 per 100,000 person-years among kids and teens who had a concussion. Among those who had orthopedic injuries the incidence was 7,960 per 100,000 person-years.

Sustaining a concussion, or what many consider a light blow to the head, increases a person’s risk of suffering from ADHD, Dementia, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety and other brain disorders later in life.

Children injured by concussions often suffer from vision, balance and sleep problems, leading to disruptions in learning. Other symptoms of concussions and disturbances to mental health include dizziness, moodiness, anxiety, being withdrawn and not enjoying activities they used to enjoy. Parents should watch out for these symptoms to determine if their child is at risk, the researchers recommended.

More than 2 million children in the US will suffer concussions every year and most of them will not receive medical attention to assess their injuries or potential impairments.


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