STUDY: Teen Concussions More Than Triple Risk of Depression

We all know the impact of concussions can extend far beyond the initial recovery. The psychological effects of concussions on professional football players’ mental health has been widely studied and publicized. But a new study shows that it’s not just the pros who are at risk. New research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teens with a history of concussions are more than three times more likely to suffer from depression than their non-concussed peers.

Yes, you read that right — more than THREE times more likely. From ScienceDaily:

The study used data from the 2007-2008 National Survey of Children’s Health and included health information from over 36,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17. 2.7 percent of the sample had had a concussion and 3.4 percent had a current depression diagnosis.

Teens who were 15 years or older, lived in poverty or who had a parent with mental health problems were more likely to be depressed than other teens, said lead study author Sara Chrisman, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “But what was surprising was when we took those factors into consideration, it didn’t take away from the association between depression and a history of concussion.

That’s right — even after accounting for other factors, teens who had a history of concussion were still 3.3 times more likely to suffer from depression. So why is that? Brain injury can cause abnormalities in the brain’s white matter, the tissue that allow different areas of the brain to communicate with one another. In one study of former professional football players, researchers were able to predict which players suffered from depression just by looking at scans of their brains’ white matter.

The same is true in children. Jeffrey Max, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of California, has found in his research that “the brain images in children with traumatic brain injury and depression were actually quite similar to those seen in adults who develop depression as a result of traumatic brain injury.”

Does this mean that every child who sustains a concussion will develop depression? Certainly not. But researchers from this study recommend that doctors should screen teens with a history of concussions for depression.

For more information about concussions, visit Magee’s Concussion Clinic or call 855-587-BRAIN to schedule an appointment.

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