About one-third of young people who have a concussion develop mental health problems in the months that follow their injury, large-scale research has found.
Overall, this includes 37% who experience withdrawal, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress and 20% who develop behaviors that have more of an effect on others, such as aggression, hyperactivity, disruptive conduct and inability to control anger.
Although most youths recover in less than a month from the common effects of a concussion – headache, nausea, dizziness or fatigue, for instance — the researchers said that mental health symptoms generally take longer to resolve, often persisting for three to six months and sometimes lasting for several years.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, come from the researchers’ review of data from 69 studies, involving 89,114 young people (age 18 and under) from the United States and eight other countries who had sustained a concussion. Falls were the most common cause (49%), followed by sports injuries (30%) and car accidents (15%).
A concussion occurs when a serious blow to the head and neck or upper body area causes the brain to move rapidly and forcefully back and forth in the skull. A concussion is sometimes described as a mild traumatic brain injury because it usually is not life-threatening, but it still can have serious effects.
These may include a loss of consciousness, confusion, slurred speech, decreased coordination, convulsions or seizures. In the United States, more than 800,000 young people each year seek treatment in emergency rooms for concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.