Concussions May Cause Teen Emotional Problems: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that teens who suffer concussions and are sensitive to light or noise, may be more likely to develop emotional symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky in Lexington found teenagers who suffered concussions also took an average of seven to 10 days longer to recover than older adults. The study was presented Friday at the Sports Concussion Conference held in Chicago, which was hosted by the American Academy of Neurology.

Lisa Koehl and Dong Han, lead researchers of the study, examined 40 youth athletes between the ages of 12 and 17 who sustained concussions. While most people recover from a concussion within about one week, researchers found that teens typically experienced concussion symptoms for 37 days, on average.

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Twenty-two of the patients experienced emotional symptoms, including anxiety, depression apathy, aggression, irritability, frequent mood swings or excessive emotional reactions.

Researchers found teens who suffered emotional symptoms, and those that didn’t, had no differences in loss of consciousness or experiencing amnesia. This suggests both groups had similar levels of concussion severity. However, the researchers concluded 23% of teens who experienced emotional symptoms were also sensitive to light. In addition, 14% of those with emotional symptoms had a sensitivity to noise.

In comparison, 13% of teens with no emotional symptoms experienced sensitivity to light. Of the teens who did not have emotional symptoms none of them were sensitive to sound.

People who suffer concussion have varying symptoms, some may include physical, mental and emotional problems. However, researchers found identifying factors like sensitivity to light or noise may help doctors treat patients and make decisions concerning time needed before returning to physical activities.

They also concluded headache, nausea, family history of mental health problems and the number of concussions a patient suffered were not associated with risk of emotional symptoms.

The findings are considered preliminary, since the results were presented at a conference and have not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal.

Teen Concussions In Focus

The results of the new study are timely considering the media attention teen concussion has received in recent months.

A recent report assembled by the National Academies of Science indicate teen athletes are at greater risk if they return to play sooner than recommended after suffering concussion. Students who return to play too soon are at higher risk of suffering a second brain injury which may result in more severe consequences.

Other studies have found a link between the effects of concussion in children and increased risk of developing depression. Children who suffered concussions face a fivefold increase in the risk of being diagnosed with depression.

More so, researchers indicate the effects of a concussion may last for months, placing them at higher risk of suffering additional injuries. That study, published in 2013, revealed white matter in the brains of children who suffered concussions appeared to still be changing months after symptoms of a concussion have disappeared.

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